WARSAW — If you ask Warsaw resident Barb Lehman what the most rewarding part about her volunteer work is, she will tell you it’s knowing that a child is safe.
Lehman is a volunteer for CASA of Kosciusko County. She has volunteered there for over 15 years.
Court appointed special advocate volunteers are people from all walks of life, educational levels and ethnic backgrounds who want to make a difference for abused and neglected children. When a child is introduced into the Kosciusko County court system as a result of abuse or neglect in the home, a judge assigns a CASA advocate to that child. The CASA advocate documents information about the case and makes recommendations to the court regarding permanent living arrangements. The advocate is in regular contact with the child until the time that the case is discharged. The advocate also gets information from people who are involved in the child’s life, such as parents, relatives, teachers, foster parents and others.
Lehman had read about CASA in the newspaper and also knew someone who had an advocate. She decided she wanted to get involved so that she could make an impact in the lives of others. Lehman signed up and began the process of becoming a CASA advocate. She described the initial training regarding domestic violence and drugs as an eye opener, stating, “It was just a brand new world to me.”
A CASA volunteer is there for a child during the most traumatic, confusing time of that child’s life. The commitment and concern of the advocate can have an enormous impact on the child’s life. Lehman said she wants to make a difference in the lives of the children she works with.
“I work with the younger kids. I just try to be their friend. My hope is that someday they might look back and think ‘That lady really helped me a long time ago,’ even if at the time they didn’t quite understand what my position was in their life.”
CASA volunteers are thoroughly trained. They must pass a background check, participate in over 30 hours of pre-service training and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (a year and a half on average).
Lehman said she enjoys attending the national CASA conferences. Besides being an advocate herself, she also assists with training.
“I try to help whenever I can, with whatever they need me to do.”
Lehman and her husband, Carl, have been married for 49 years. They have four children, 13 grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
CASA of Kosciusko County is a non-profit organization which advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children who are entangled in the Kosciusko County court system. There is always a need for more CASA volunteers. Lehman states she would like to see more male volunteers, as some of the older boys could likely relate better with a male advocate.
Lehman said she wishes there was more awareness about what CASA does, stating, “Our only objective is to see that the child is safe.”
“CASA is a great organization that helps a lot of kids.”