GREENFIELD — After Kathy Locke retired in 2008 to spend more time with her family, she thought she’d finally have the time to do some volunteering.
But when Locke, 50, of Greenfield, began logging hours as a court-appointed special advocate, what she found felt more like a calling than a hobby to pass her spare time.
Locke has always considered working with children one of her passions. So, when the mother of two heard a friend talk about the C.A.S.A. program, which assigns volunteer advocates to assist in court cases involving children, it seemed like a perfect fit.
State law requires that the court appoint a C.A.S.A. volunteer in every case where a child is in need of services. C.A.S.A. volunteers, of which Hancock County has just shy of 50, are responsible for observing these children, also referred to by the acronym C.H.I.N.S., in their home environments and making written recommendations to the judge about where they should be placed – with parents or otherwise – as their cases move forward.
Locke, who began volunteering in 2008, has sometimes juggled as many as seven cases at a time.
“I’ve had everything from newborn babies all the way through teenagers aging out of the system, so I’ve had the opportunity to work with, really, every age group,” Locke said.
Locke’s dedication to the C.A.S.A. program recently earned her the 2012 Hancock County C.A.S.A. Volunteer of the Year Award.
She was recognized at the fifth annual Champions for Children C.A.S.A. Awards Dinner last week.
Annette Craycraft, East Central Indiana C.A.S.A. executive director, honored Locke, whom she described as a dependable volunteer who is making a difference.
“They have to be dedicated, and Kathy is one of those extraordinary people that, through the ups and down of her life and her career, ... she’s vey dedicated to keeping this program a success,” Craycraft said.
At the awards banquet, Craycraft shared a story about Locke’s dedication to a particular case that was assigned to her in 2008 and has been on her list ever since.
Since his parents’ rights were terminated, the boy Locke was assigned to advocate for has been bounced from foster home to foster home.
Case managers have come and gone, leaving the child, who is now 12, with little sense of continuity.
“Through all of this, the one constant thing he has had is his C.A.S.A., Kathy,” Craycraft said.
Today, Locke is happy to report the boy is living in what is considered a “pre-adoptive” home.
“Things are looking very positive for him, so I’m just very hopeful that’s going to happen,” she said. “I think probably one of the hardest things you see is when kids do have to be moved so frequently.”
While serving as a C.A.S.A. undoubtedly places volunteers in difficult situations at times, Locke says the successes are worth the effort.
“Some of my friends will say, ‘I don’t know how you could do that,’ but when you look it on the other hand, how can you not do that?” Locke said. “How can you not help a child that needs that help?”