CASA volunteers sworn in Friday
On Friday, Judge Joseph Trout sat on the bench in Clay Circuit Court while speaking to five new volunteers who were about to take oaths of office to become court-appointed special advocates, or CASA volunteers.
During his remarks, the judge stressed the importance of the task the volunteers, Lisa Beyers, Mary Ann Barbour, Lisa McMahon, Doug Barr and Brian Wilson, have undertaken.
He said he relies on the CASA volunteers to help him make the correct judgments in cases involving children because, “There is no job more important than to protect the innocent and no one is more innocent than a child.”
He said current CASA volunteers and their director, Shannon Willmore, along with Assistant Director Vanessa Montgomery and Older Youth Specialist Tracey Burton have gained the admiration and appreciation of many in Clay County.
“Bragging a little bit, I would have to say the Clay County CASA is kind of the talk of the town right now,” Trout said. “You’re getting high praise from everybody from the commissioners to the council and various citizens I talk to. They honestly feel relieved that you as a group, as a program, have done a tremendous job representing the needs of the children of Clay County. A special thanks to Shannon Willmore, our director. You couldn’t ask for a better director than Shannon.”
Willmore is the sixth CASA director to serve with the judge in the past 10 years.
“That job is the hardest there is,” he said. “Decisions the court makes have to be reasoned, have to be based on fact and have to be in the children’s best interest.”
After the meeting, Willmore said the newest group of volunteers brings her staff up to 28 but she is personally handling 12 cases she should not be handling because of her other duties. Twenty more volunteers are needed. A new training class will begin near the end of April. For more information, call 812-448-9035.
The judge recalled earlier days when he couldn’t find nearly as many volunteers.
“When I first started we had three volunteers, then two would quit and we would get two,” he said. “We never had over a handful. But times are changing.”
The reason so many more volunteers are needed is the number of cases involving children who need special protection by the court has increased.
“The number of DCS (Indiana Department of Child Service) cases has exploded,” he said. “We have the best group of volunteers we’ve ever had; the most trained, the most motivated, the most interested and I’m personally very proud of the job you volunteers have done, representing the kids.”