Multiple causes celebrated

By Ed Brock

In a way, Wanda Polite got lucky on her first case with Clayton County's Court Appointed Special Advocate Program.

Living on the streets and going from shelter to shelter with his homeless mother had not completely traumatized the 4-year-old boy to whom she was assigned.

"He was a very happy-go-lucky child," Polite said. "He didn't have a lot of emotional problems like you would think."

Polite, and her client, also got lucky in that the boy's paternal grandmother agreed to take care of him. Bringing about happy endings like that for children who are somehow involved in the court system is the goal of all CASA volunteers.

This is National Volunteer Week, a week dedicated to people like Polite. It is also National Victims' Rights Week, and on Saturday CASA will hold a banquet to honor both causes since they both apply to that organization, CASA Program Director Gerald Bostock said.

"It's an occasion to allow us to celebrate the efforts of the volunteers who work so hard to advocate for child victims in our community," Bostock said.

Polite, 39, of Stockbridge, has been a CASA volunteer for a year and she has an affinity for the work.

"I have a child, too, and I am a single parent so I do understand that things happen," Polite said. "You can lose your job, lose your car and lose your house, but that child has to eat every day."

But she has no understanding or sympathy for people who deliberately abuse their children. The rights of victims like the children she protects must be protected, Polite said, and being a part of that effort is not just a way to make her feel good, but a way to ensure her own future.

The children she helps could be making decisions for her some day when she is a senior citizen.

"I feel like if CASA was not involved in these cases these children likely would be doomed," Polite said.

This week also coincides with National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, giving Jennifer Bivens, director of the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Center, plenty to do.

"We have information at all Clayton County libraries for Victims' Rights Week," Bivens said.

Along SCSAC, the victims' advocate programs with the Clayton County District Attorney's Office and the county's Solicitor General's Office are providing the information.

Meanwhile, SCSAC workers are still counting the money raised by Tuesday's "Jeans for Justice" fundraiser, part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. During that event workers at participating businesses paid a $1 for the right to wear jeans to work.

"We don't have our final tally yet, but we're going to break the record for the last two years, we know that," said SCSAC Director of Victim's Services Tonya Burkett.

And next week the SCSAC will bring together victims of sexual assault with the people dedicated to helping them for tree plantings in Clayton and Henry counties. The Clayton County tree planting will be held at the county's headquarters library building on Battlecreek Road in Jonesboro on April 29 and the Henry County planting will be held April 28 at the Community Gardens Heritage Park Village Museum on Lake Dow Road.

Both planting ceremonies will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

For more information on CASA call (770) 603-3268 and for information on SCSAC and Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities call (770) 603-4045.