Almost 1,000 children in the Toledo area are living with someone other than their parents because of abuse or neglect.
PERRYSBURG, Ohio — Almost 1,000 children in the Toledo area are living with someone other than their parents because of abuse or neglect. There are 200 Court Appointed Special Advocates who speak for these children in court, and they do it for free.
Pat Wilkins is one of the four volunteers recognized at the CASA Courage Awards on Thursday. She wears many hats as an investigator and advocate for children who deal with abuse and neglect.
“It’s very humbling to know that you’re doing something that can help kids then to have someone recognizing that,” Wilkins said. “That’s really not what this is all about.”
Wilkins didn’t always work with kids, though. Back in the 1980s, she heard about CASA from a presentation. She was very interested, but she was raising twins and had a demanding career in sales.
“It had to go on the back burner. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to do it,” she said.
But seven years ago, she retired and applied to be a volunteer. Wilkins wishes she got into it sooner and encourages those interested not to wait.
“Even though I had a wonderful career that I loved, I do this because it’s the most important work that I can do,” Wilkins said. “Please do it because there are so many kids that need our help.”
Unlike Wilkins, Amy Buckey had a career working with kids as a substitute teacher for Sylvania City Schools. She works with another volunteer on her cases, and they both were honored Thursday.
“My partner was a neonatal nurse and I was in education,” she said. “We seem to be able to combine those two professions with a lot of experience.”
Judy Leb, the director of CASA, is a part of the process of picking the awardees. She thinks it’s important for the advocates to be volunteers.
“It is so hard to pick the award winners because all of our CASA volunteers are incredibly special,” Leb said. “The children know that these people who are advocating for them are volunteers. That brings them great hope because these are people in the community that care enough to do the work.”
CASA volunteers don’t need a degree or even a high school diploma. Leb said they are well-trained to advocate for the children.
If you’re interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, you can find more information on their website.
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