A Courtside Seat

DSC03756Hope for the Helpless

By Judge Kim Hall

Let’s begin with a dose of reality.  There are parents in Starke County who have no business being parents, yet they are.  Pregnant mothers, with no regard for the health of their unborn child, frequently use illegal drugs during their pregnancy because they enjoy it.  Fathers spend their money on themselves for alcohol, cigarettes, and lottery tickets, neglecting their children’s basic needs for food and medical care.  Other irresponsible fathers simply walk away, with no intention of providing financial support for the child they fathered.

Some parents have meth labs in their house, lacking the slightest concern for exposing their children to toxic chemicals.  Some parents provide no supervision, allowing their children to freely run the streets.  Some don’t care if their child gets an education, and forget about the idea of doing homework.

Some parents physically abuse their children, even infants, for inexplicable reasons.

Sad to say, but there are children in Starke County who live in these conditions every day.  Clearly, as a community, we have a responsibility to step up and help these abused and neglected children.  Fortunately, we have many people willing to do just that.

It all starts when our police or the Department of Child Services, (DCS), are contacted about a child who is living in an environment that is unsafe.  After an investigation, the child may be physically removed from the house.  The child is then placed in a safe environment, whether that is with a relative or into a foster home.

Subsequently, the DCS files a petition alleging that the child is a Child in Need of Services.  That’s when the law in Indiana requires a judge to appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate, (CASA), to speak for the child in court.

DSC03739The order appointing the CASA grants that person a great deal of power. The CASA is legally authorized to meet with the child, the parents, relatives, neighbors, school officials, medical personnel, and to examine school records, medical records, etc. The CASA comes into court ready to offer a recommendation to the judge regarding services that are in the best interests of the child.

The Court Appointed Special Advocate Program of Starke County has an office across from the Courthouse at 22 North Main Street in Knox.  The telephone is 772-7200.  If you would like to volunteer, your name will be taken and you will be invited to attend the first training session.  There will be 10 training sessions, all in the evenings.

If you aren’t sure and would like to read more, you can go to the national CASA website at www.nationalcasa.org.  Starke County’s CASA program has been certified by both the national and state organizations.  If you go to the website, you can sign up to volunteer right there.  There is still time for you to dive in.

However, I must caution you.  Expect to be granted unique powers that you do not now possess, directly improving the life of a Starke County child, and being overwhelmed with a sense of great satisfaction  You can expect to give love, but you have to be prepared to get it back in ways that you cannot even imagine.

SOMETHING TO PONDER

Sink or swim, I’m diving in.

Steven Curtis Chapman

contact: judgekimhall@co.starke.in.us

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