A Courtside Seat

Do You Love Children?

By Judge Kim Hall

How often do you get the chance to become personally involved in the life of a child whom you have never met, and to directly play an important role in turning that child’s life around?  I have good news for you.  There are children right here in Starke County who need you to become involved in their lives and speak for them in court. All you have to do is take the first step.

Let me tell you about some of the types of cases that we have in our court.  Four year old Amanda and her little brother Billy were found living in an unfinished house, with cold air and snow blowing in, and the only contents in the refrigerator were two cans of beer. Twelve year old Brittany, whose dad abandoned her when she was a toddler, was molested for two years by her mother’s live-in boyfriend at their apartment.

Infant Emma was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which resulted in a low birth weight and an expectant life of delayed development.  Christopher, nine years old, whose parents went to the bar every Saturday afternoon, was expected to supervise his three younger siblings.  He was frequently beaten when his intoxicated parents would return several hours later and, in their judgment, he failed to meet his responsibilities.

In the Starke Circuit Court the real cases are often more disturbing.   Many children have been removed by the police or Department of Child Services, and are placed with a relative or into a foster home.  Hearings are then held in court for the Judge to decide if the child is a Child in Need of Services.

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Who will speak for these children?  Who will be an advocate for the child in the courtroom and tell the Judge what the child’s life has been like and suggest how to make the child’s life better? If an adult is uncomfortable in the courtroom, what do you think the experience is like for a seven year old child?

Fortunately, we now have nineteen dedicated volunteers who have been trained to investigate these matters, speak directly with the child, and advocate for the best interests of the child in the courtroom.  Legally, they are referred to as Court Appointed Special Advocates, (CASA), but simply put, they are Starke County people who have an unselfish desire to help children who live in our community.

It’s one thing to write a check to an organization that will provide food, medical care, etc. to a child in a far-away country.  It’s an entirely different experience to hold a trembling baby in your arms, to look a six year old girl in the eyes and wipe her tears, or to put your arm around a physically abused nine year old boy, comforting him and assuring him that, for the first time in his life, he is safe.

You can read this article, move on to the classified ads to see if there is some piece of exercise equipment for sale, then put the paper in the magazine rack and get ready for dinner.  Or, you could decide that now is the time to help a child, one-on-one, right here in your community.  Of course, that means that you will have to step out of your comfort zone.

If you love children and would like to acquire a new and rewarding purpose for your life, just call 772-7200, e-mail me, or even come see me at the courthouse to find out how you can get started.

A new class of volunteers will begin training in September.   Why don’t you join them?  Amanda and Billy are hoping that you do.

SOMETHING TO PONDER

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary, and love for the broken heart.

Third Day

contact:  judgekimhall@starke.co.in.us

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