On Tuesday, October 19, nine new Court Appointed Special Advocates were sworn-in at the Allen County Courthouse Rotunda by Judge Lori Morgan. The newest class of CASA volunteers recently completed a six week/30-hour training program. These individuals have a heart for children in our community and want to make sure that abused and neglected children do not get lost in the court system. They will join a team of more than 160 advocates who provide a voice for children who have been abused and/or neglected. Essentially, CASA volunteers “speak up” for these children in the court and child welfare systems, making sure they are safe and well cared for, are getting the services they need, and are placed in a permanent, safe, nurturing home as quickly as possible by making recommendations to the court.
“CASA volunteers don’t require any specific educational or professional background. Our current class had a variety of voices: two nurses, a student, a retired teacher, three customer service representatives, a disability champion and a vet tech. We search for volunteers who have compassion, objectivity, and a few hours a month to visit a child. We’ll train and supervise them to be effective voices in court,” says Mell Depew, Recruitment and Training Coordinator for Allen County Office of GAL/CASA. “Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. They are ordinary individuals who rise to the extraordinary by making a difference in the life of a child.”
Michelle Potts one of the new volunteer advocates had this to say about becoming a CASA. “I would like to be a CASA because I, myself was put through the system. I have a story. I lived through my trauma and pain. I do not think any child should have to suffer from any form of abuse. If I had someone to advocate for my 10 siblings and myself my life would have been a bit different. Had I not gone through those things I would not be able to help someone else that may be experiencing the same things I have.”
Judge Morgan was appointed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to serve as Judge of the Allen Superior Court Family Relations Division on May 18, 2021. Prior to her appointment as Judge, she had served as a Magistrate in the Family Division since 1995. Judge Morgan received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Iowa. Prior to her appointment as a Magistrate, she was in private practice where she primarily practiced family law. While in private practice, she also served as a Guardian Ad Litem for children in Children In Need of Services (CHINS) proceedings before the Allen Superior Court. Judge Morgan currently serves on the Domestic Relations Committee and on the Fitness Committee for the Indiana Board of Law Examiners. She is a member of the Indiana Judges Association, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Association of Women Judges, and the Allen County Bar Association where she serves on the Family Law Executive Committee. In 2005, she was a recipient of an Indiana’s NewsCenter Women in Leadership Award. In 2009, she was a recipient of an NAACP Award for outstanding service to the community in the area of justice for the families and children of Fort Wayne. Judge Morgan has served as a speaker at the Allen Superior Court’s Annual Conference on Youth and has trained community volunteers who serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates in CHINS proceedings.
This event was sponsored by the Allen County CASA Coalition, a not-for-profit that focuses its efforts toward recruitment, training, and supporting volunteers. Allen County CASA is affiliated with the Indiana State Office of GAL/CASA, which is part of the Indiana Supreme Court, Division of State Court Administration. Allen County CASA is certified by the State Office and complies with the Indiana Supreme Court Program Standards and Code of Ethics for GAL/CASA programs. Allen County CASA is also a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association.
Anyone interested in becoming an advocate for children should contact Mell Depew, Volunteer & Recruitment Coordinator, at (260) 449-7190 or go to the Allen County CASA website: AllenCountyCASA.org