HANCOCK COUNTY — Zoe Quick was just 15 years old when her parents turned her over to foster care.
She was 18 when she aged out of the foster system and set out on her own with nothing but a trash bag full of clothes in the back seat of her 1998 Chevy Lumina.
Quick was met with a standing ovation when she shared her story March 7 at the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis, as a featured speaker at CASA Day.
Hundreds of representatives from CASA — the Court Appointed Special Advocates program for kids in the court system due to abuse or neglect — rose to their feet after Quick shared what a difference her CASA made in her journey.
Debbie Shircliff was paired with Quick through the Hancock County CASA program six years ago, when Quick was a 17-year-old senior at Greenfield-Central High School.
When Quick spent some time in the hospital for mental health issues, Shircliff was the only person to visit her other than her grandma.
“Debbie was the only one who came to my graduation except for my grandma. She took me to the mall to get new shoes and jewelry for graduation and took me to lunch,” said Quick, now 22 and living a happy life in Shelbyville with her husband, Shane.
“She has done a lot for me … more than anybody could ever imagine,” said Quick. “The day before my grandma passed away, (Shircliff) and her husband drove from Anderson to Southport to take me to the hospital so I could say my goodbyes. She did not have to do that at all. She went above and beyond.”
Shircliff said that type of devotion is what being a CASA is all about.
As one of the 35 CASAs in the Hancock County CASA program, Shircliff has supported a number of children involved with the local courts — often due to a parent’s neglect, incarceration, drug use or other problems at home.
Quick was matched with Shircliff for two years until they lost touch after Quick aged out of the foster system, but she never forgot the woman who devoted countless hours to making her feel special and loved.
“The main reason I lost connection with her is because when I turned 18 I was homeless and was basically living on friends’ couches, so I just stopped all communication with everyone,” Quick recalled. “It really wasn’t intentional, I just didn’t even have a phone at the time, so I couldn’t really contact her if I wanted to.”
Life began to change for Quick when she met her future husband through social media in 2018.
On Tuesday, she shared how the support she received through the CASA program got her to where she is today.
“I am a former foster child from the age of 15-18. I was in eight different foster homes, but the only thing that stayed the same was my CASA, Debbie,” she told the crowd.
“She was there for me through the hardest times I’ve had as a teenager, more than my biological parents were … She was my go-to person who advocated for me and who just listened. Most the time that’s all I needed was someone to listen to me,” she said.
Now happily married and working as a leasing consultant in Greenfield, Quick said she owes much of where she is today to the support she got through CASA.
“I would just like to say it’s possible to start your life completely over, no matter what you have been dealt. I am forever grateful for Debbie and everyone who works with CASA,” she said.
After she spoke Tuesday, Shircliff stepped up to the mic to thank her for sharing her story.
“You have given every single CASA in this room a gift by what you just said because I think we all need that encouragement that we don’t often get. We don’t know what the end result of our work is going to be,” said Shircliff, who called Quick’s journey inspiring.
Shircliff lived in Greenfield when she was first paired with Quick, but has continued to work with the Hancock County CASA program since moving to Fishers.
She’s now planning the organization’s annual fundraiser, to take place Thursday, June 15 at Daniel’s Vineyard in McCordsville.
For $10, guests can stop by for trivia night and a silent auction with a wide variety of items up for bid.
The event has drawn between 150 and 200 people in the past, and has raised between $12,000 and $15,000.
Guests are able to purchase their own beer and wine and half-price pizzas while perusing auction items, playing trivia and learning more about Hancock County CASA.
The program’s director, Marciann McClarnon Miller, said the program is in great need of more volunteers with a heart for helping children.
The impact Shircliff made on Quick is a perfect example of the difference a CASA can make in a child’s life, she said.
“So many positive stories are embedded in the history of our program. We need to celebrate the opportunity to be the voice of a child,” said McClarnon Miller.
Even while living on friends’ couches and finding her way after foster care, Quick never forgot the impact Shircliff made on her life.
About a month ago, she reached out to a juvenile probation officer she had met as a teen and asked for his help reconnecting with Shircliff.
“I was so excited to hear that she’s married and has a great job and is doing so well. She’s gone through so much. It’s great to see her doing so well,” said Shircliff, who stood by Quick’s side as she told her story at the statehouse Tuesday.
“I guarantee she touched the heart of every CASA there because we all need to hear those positive outcomes,” said Shircliff. “Finding out you did a little bit of good is just wonderful.”
To learn more about the Hancock County CASA program or to volunteer, call 317-477-1304 or visit CASAhancockcountyin.org.