Deadline Now: Court Appointed Special Advocates
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Deadline Now: Court Appointed Special Advocates

Friday, July 20, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.

In Spanish, casa means house. but when it comes to abused and neglected children, CASA often means their best shot at a new life. CASA is an acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocates. Locally, this nonprofit organization of volunteers works with Lucas County juvenile judges to ensure that children are best represented in court. Judith Leb, an attorney who has workd for years as a recruiter for CASA, and Carol Martin, the director of the local CASA program, are this week's guests.

On the web:

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

I have done a few difficult things in my life, but I am not sure I have ever taken on anything as emotionally challenging as what CASA volunteers do, all the time, without getting paid for it.

Nor am I sure that most of what I do is as necessary as is the work of Court Appointed Special Advocates, in Lucas County and elsewhere.  There’s an old maxim that what journalists should be doing is comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

Most journalists I know don’t really do very much comforting.  But that is what CASA volunteers are all about -- and they do it for the most vulnerable members of society -- our children. Children who have been neglected and abused in a way that those of us from so-called normal families often find it hard to imagine.

After their ordeal, these kids are thrown into the maelstrom of a legal system even many adults find it hard to understand, much less negotiate.  What happens to them there is crucial. Certainly we know that if things go wrong, their young lives could be blighted, or worse.

There‘s no way of knowing how many children have been saved by a CASA volunteer or volunteers. By and large, the men and women who give up their time and energy for CASA don't get their faces on TV or their names in the paper.

And they certainly don’t get rich doing what they do, which is speaking up for these children, making sure they aren't lost in the cracks of the system and that they end up in a place best suited to their needs, not those of the adults involved, or even the court system itself.  Children are, after all, our future.

And for those whose families are troubled enough to land the children in court, CASA may be their only hope.
Hillary Clinton wrote a famous book years ago called “It Takes a Village,” the message of which meant that when it comes to raising children, the entire community needs to be involved. CASA volunteers are out doing that every day.

It may even be that to a larger extent than we know, civil society and what we sometimes think of as civilization may depend on them. We need more CASA volunteers -- and we need to find a way to show the ones we have that they are adequately appreciated.