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Speaking for the kids

CASA seeks court advocate volunteers

June 09, 2010
In Spanish, "casa" means "house," something everyone hopes will be a safe place to live. But for too many children, their house is anything but.

That's where CASA comes in. In this case, the acronym means "Court-Appointed Special Advocates;" it's a group of volunteers trained to be what the courts term "guardians ad litem" speaking up for abused and neglected children.

Since 2001, Eric Glass, a Brookfield resident and former owner of Video Dimensions in Southbridge, has been one of them. He said he became involved because, as a parent, seeing TV reports of child abuse cases "made me sick."

"The system is overwhelmed," he observed. "The CASA program is basically a finger in the dike, but it's so important. … Judges take what a CASA says with a lot of weight. I think they really rely on these reports [to make decisions regarding children]."

Dudley District Court Juvenile Judge Luis Perez definitely agreed.

"In too many cases, the people walk out of here and I can only say, 'I hope that child makes it,'" he admitted. "These cases need that type of eyes and ears, the voice [of a CASA]. They tell me what's taking place."

Perez noted he has seen a large increase in the number of child abuse and neglect cases during his 23 years on the bench (14 years in Dudley). His first year, he saw just 13; this year, there have been more than 200, and it's not even half over.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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