County child ad­vo­cate group to hold open house

Cecil Whig - - & - By CARL HAMIL­TON


— Any­one look­ing for a way to have a pos­i­tive im­pact on a ne­glected child should come to the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of Ce­cil County in Elk­ton on Thurs­day, when Court Ap­pointed Spe­cial Ad­vo­cates (CASA) will hold an open house.

The event, which is from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., will show off CASA’s new of­fice space on the third floor of the build­ing at 135 E. Main St., ac­cord­ing Guilia Hodge, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CASA. The or­ga­ni­za­tion had shared an of­fice with Le­gal Aid in the Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court­house for the past two years.

It also will al­low at­ten­dees to learn more about CASA of Ce­cil County, which, dat­ing back to a steer­ing com­mit­tee in 2014, is one of 15 pro­grams through­out the state that pro­vides ad­vo­cates for abused and ne­glected chil­dren.

Court-ap­pointed and trained, ev­ery CASA vol­un­teer is a com­mit­ted adult who is as­signed to a child in Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices and then rep­re­sents and ad­vo­cates in the best in­ter­est of that child.

CASA’s first vol­un­teer was “trained and ready to go” in June, Hodge said Tues­day, adding there are six ac­tive CASA vol­un­teers. But those vol­un­teers are scratch­ing only the sur­face, ac­cord­ing to Hodge. There are ap­prox­i­mately 180 chil­dren in this county who fall un­der Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices, part of the Ce­cil County Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, she re­ported.

“Ide­ally, we would love to have a one-on-one with ev­ery child, one CASA vol­un­teer as­signed to ev­ery sin­gle child in the pro­gram,” Hodge said.

CASA vol­un­teers must be at least 21 years old. They must go through a screen­ing process and re­ceive 30 to 40 hours of train­ing.

The pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of a CASA vol­un­teer is to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the court, get­ting to know the child while gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion from the child’s fam­ily, fos­ter par­ents, teach­ers, coun­selors and so forth, and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to help the judge de­cide what is best for the child. CASA vol­un­teers “come from all walks of life” and share a com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing chil­dren’s lives, Hodge said.

Those in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about be­com­ing a CASA vol­un­teer can at­tend Thurs­day’s event. An in­for­ma­tion ses­sion is sched­uled to start at 5:15 p.m. For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Hodge at 410-996-3025.


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