Mundelein resident becomes newest CASA volunteer
Denise Houchins of Mundelein was sworn in on Sept. 30 by the Lake County Juvenile Court as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate.
Houchins, in conjunction with CASA Lake County, will be working to support, protect and advocate for local children who have been victims of child abuse, domestic violence and neglect.
Houchins, a retired surgical technician, joins a force of nearly 300 dedicated volunteers trained by CASA Lake County to serve children whose cases are active in Lake County Juvenile Court. Most of the children are in foster care.
"I am excited to be a CASA volunteer," Houchins said. "I want to make a difference in children's lives by being their voice and by shining a little light every day I am with them, so the darkness gets diminished and I can help put them on a good path.
"Children need a chance to thrive, and I want to be there to help them get the chance they deserve. I want to show them a kind, caring and unconditionally loving heart to help them see there is hope."
The number of child victims of abuse and neglect has grown substantially in Lake County in recent years. To help protect the welfare of these children, CASA Lake County has broadened its recruiting efforts and advocacy training program for new volunteers. Anyone interested in making a difference in a child's life is urged to contact the organization.
"We are searching for dedicated volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for vulnerable children," said Terri Zenner Greenberg, executive director of CASA Lake County.
"Since the start of the pandemic, the number of Lake County children entering protective care has skyrocketed. At the same time, a number of volunteers have had to step back because of the impact of COVID-19 on their own lives.
"Volunteers with a variety of skills and backgrounds are all very much appreciated," Zenner Greenberg said. "We'd love to see more men joining us in our work and serving as role models. Anyone who is fluent in Spanish is particularly needed. There is no requirement to have experience in criminal justice or social work. What matters is a volunteer's consistency and a commitment to advocate impartially for the best interests of children in foster care. Adults of every background can successfully fill this role."
CASA volunteers build long-term, caring relationships with the children in their assigned cases. CASAs coordinate and share recommendations with caregivers and service providers. They also report to the court regarding health, education and family issues, and recommend actions and interventions that may be needed.
The goal of a CASA is to give voice to each child's unique needs and to make sure that the best interests of each child are being met. CASAs seek to assure that each child is secured in a safe, permanent home in which they can thrive.
CASA volunteers must successfully complete an in-depth, 40-hour training program. Over the past year, the training has been conducted online.
Any adult interested in volunteering with CASA Lake County should contact Lori Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.casalakecounty.com/menus/volunteer and submit an application.
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