Denton – On Wednesday, June 10, CASA of Caroline proudly welcomed three new Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers who were sworn in by Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell. Sworn in were: Ann Anthony, Julie Quick and Richard Warfield. These 3 committed individuals began their 30-hour pre-service training on March 2 at the CASA of Caroline offices. When asked why she wanted to be a CASA volunteer, Ms. Anthony said, “It’s my love for children and wanting to be used by God to reach the lost, the hurting, unloved and abused children. My mission is to show Christ’s love to the children who feel forgotten and unwanted and let them know they matter and have value!”. Mrs. Quick echoed that sentiment, saying “Really, it’s an opportunity to show God’s love to others in a tangible and meaningful way”.
On March 30, Governor Hogan issued the stay-at-home order. But the Covid-19 Pandemic was not going to stop these three from completing the course in order to serve children in the Caroline County Foster Care System! “Our new volunteers are eager to begin their work as advocates. We are so grateful for their passion and commitment to the families in Caroline County”, said CASA of Caroline’s Executive Director Shelly Kulp.
The training class was moved online on April 16. “We have been working hard to transition to virtual learning and our new volunteers have been fully engaged in the training process. We actually began to look forward to our weekly online discussions and found that virtual meetings could be just as fun as meeting face-to-face!”, said Kulp. The final session was held via Google Hangouts on May 7 but the courts remained closed due to the pandemic. Recognizing the need for new CASA volunteers in Caroline County, Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell agreed to a small ceremony with face mask and social distancing guidelines in place.
Judge Newell welcomed the new volunteers, along with CASA of Caroline Executive Director, Shelly Kulp and Director of Outreach & Partnerships, Amy Horne, and shared his opinion about the importance of their work. “We have one case, in particular, that has gone on far too long, but the one constant in the youth’s life has been the CASA volunteer. CASA provides a unique perspective on things the system just CAN’T do.” He went on to say, “I can tell you for myself and the Magistrate, your opinion is always valued and appreciated and never taken lightly.” After his opening remarks, Judge Newell asked each of the new volunteers to raise their right hand while he administered the oath from behind a plexiglass partition. He then congratulated the new CASA’s and said, “Yours is a labor of love and it is much needed.”
The ceremony may not have had the usual pomp and circumstance but it had every bit as much excitement! The newly appointed CASA’s are officially permitted to advocate for abused and neglected children in Caroline County who have been removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system. As officers of the court, they ensure the children’s needs are recognized and best interests are considered in both the courtroom and the community. Their sworn oath binds them to advocating for the best interest of the child when the court orders them to do so. “By adding these three new volunteers, CASA of Caroline is better able to meet the needs of children and youth in foster care.”, said Kulp. CASA of Caroline now has 14 trained and active volunteer advocates.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created conditions for a potential rise in child abuse and neglect. Anxiety about health, education and finances is high. Children aren’t seeing the teachers, counselors and other adults who normally raise concerns about their well-being. The role of a CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer is more vital now than ever. New CASA Rich Warfield said, “I find there is no better way to avoid the anxiety and confusion brought on by times like these than by focusing on helping meet the needs of others, particularly the most vulnerable.” Mrs. Quick added, “The family unit is the foundation of our society, and CASA not only protects children but, in doing so, helps to lift up those struggling families”. We are very grateful to Rich, Julie and Ann for their dedication and commitment – welcome to our team!
Do you want to make a difference in the life of a child in the Caroline County Foster Care System? Become a CASA of Caroline volunteer! Our new online training program is so user friendly and can be started at any time. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit www.carolinecasa.org for information and an application or call 410-479-8301. Every child deserves a chance and that chance could be YOU!