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Child advocates ready, eager to help

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Seventeen court-appointed child advocates were sworn in on Wednesday, in an afternoon ceremony on the second floor of the Historical Clayton County Courthouse.

With their right hands raised, the 15 women and two men joining the county's Court Appointed Special Advocates program, repeated after a judge their oaths to "remain objective, yet caring, and make unbiased recommendations to the court."

Martha Glaze, the juvenile court judge who started the Clayton County program 10 years ago, swore in the class of volunteers, who have all finished 40 hours of classroom training and courtroom observation. She described the work of the special advocates as "heart-breaking work," as they will reach out to help children who have been severely neglected and who have no one else to help them.

"You may be the only person that they'll talk to or that they'll want to talk to," Glaze said. "I think this is the most important place you can volunteer."

Tracy Graham Lawson, juvenile court judge, told the volunteers it would be impossible to describe how important the work of a child advocate truly is, and they will not always realize how much good they are doing.

"You become their hero," she said, "and sometimes they need a hero and a cheerleader more than you can realize."

Gerald Bostock, the county CASA's director, told the new advocates that they join an "army of the other 200 volunteers."

The 17 formed the 32nd class of volunteers at Clayton County CASA, which is the largest CASA program in the state and sends volunteers to Henry County and Fayette County. The first class of volunteers was sworn in, in 1998, on June 5, Bostock said.

According to Duaine Hathaway, the director of the state CASA program, the Clayton County organization and it's mass of volunteers is held up, around Georgia, "as a model of success, how to do a CASA program."

The 17 new volunteers were: Felicia Anderson, Horace Clark, Chevelle Douglas, Gina Glymph, Tory Holloway, Sonya Johnson, Lisa Jones, Yolanda Myers, India Phelts, Denicia Price, Benita Prowell, Milton Roca, Elizabeth Schueler, Lyana Watson, Etess Weeks, Falish Yacoob and Alice Zacharie.

Bostock asked the group if they were ready to take the oath of a child advocate, and from their folding chairs at the front of the court room, the 17 responded enthusiastically: "Yeah!"

Eldrin Bell, Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman, congratulated them and thanked them.

"You are now prepared and eagerly ready to do what must be done for 'the least of these,'" he said.

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On the Web:

www.claytoncasa.com