Six volunteers sworn in to serve as voice for children

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Madison County’s new Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program welcomed their first crop of volunteers in a swearing-in ceremony held on Feb. 29: (from left) volunteers Austin Hill, Michele Bouquet, Carolyn Anderson, Sandi O’Connor, Elizabeth Parker, and Patricia Blazer; Brianna Britton, CASA program director; and Madison County Juvenile/Probate Judge Christopher J. Brown.

(Posted March 6, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

On Feb. 29, six individuals with a passion for helping children officially became court appointed special advocates (CASA). Madison County Juvenile/Probate Judge Christopher J. Brown administered the oath of office.

“This is a wonderful endeavor each of you is going to undertake, and it is much needed in Madison County,” Brown said.

CASA volunteers advocate for children who are in the court system as a result of abuse, neglect, or dependency. Their job is to listen to the child, find out what their wishes are moving forward, and present the child’s best interests to the court. The ultimate goal is to reunify the children with their families by linking them to appropriate resources.

Each volunteer completes 33 hours of training over the course of six weeks. The training includes in-person and online instruction, as well as court observation. Once training is complete, volunteers can begin accepting cases.

The first appointees in Madison County’s new CASA program are: Carolyn Anderson of Mechanicsburg, Patricia Blazer of London, Michele Bouquet of London, Austin Hill of Mount Sterling, Sandi O’Connor of London, and Elizabeth Parker of London.

“I signed up with the CASA program to give children a voice and hopefully help them with their needs,” said Blazer who previously volunteered for the CASA program in Dayton.

Parker’s decision to become a CASA volunteer is an outgrowth of her professional career during which she held various positions with the state, including serving as a child wellness expert for the Ohio Department of Health. Now retired, she is giving her time to various child advocacy efforts, as well as volunteering as a tutor.

Hill, who serves as the family ministries pastor at Mount Sterling Nazarene, signed up because he felt he could be a good voice for children who don’t have one.

“It will help me better understand the struggles of families and allow me to help them find success and resources,” he said.

Madison County’s CASA program is always accepting applications from prospective volunteers. A summer or fall training will take place this year, depending on the number of applications received, said Brianna Britton, program director.

CASA volunteers must be 21 or older, fill out an application, complete a background check and interview, and complete training. They don’t have to have a certain background or experience, just a heart for helping kids, Britton said.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can fill out an application online. Or they can contact Britton at (740) 845-1632 or brianna.britton@madison.oh.gov to have an information packet and application mailed to them.

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