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Mahoning County CASA/GAL program and judge honored at 25th anniversary dinner

Legal News Reporter

Published: May 23, 2013

When Mahoning County Juvenile Judge Theresa Dellick was honored recently by the Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian AD Litem program, she was presented with a chocolate gavel and a Shining Star award. But the work and advocacy she provides for children going through the justice system seems to go far beyond what candy or an award can symbolize.

The Mahoning County Casa/GAL Program celebrated its 25th anniversary May 3, with a dinner at the Blue Wolf Banquet Hall on Lockwood Boulevard.

“We honored Judge Dellick because she’s so supportive of our program,” said Patty Fisher, executive director of the Mahoning County CASA/GAL program. “Out of the 88 counties in Ohio, there are only 33 counties that have CASA programs. The judges in those counties have to allow it. Judge Dellick thinks it is a wonderful program and that the volunteers do an excellent job.”

CASA/GAL is a non-profit program in the courthouse which trains community volunteers to make recommendations for the best interest of a child going through the juvenile justice system. There are currently 33 active volunteers in the program.

Judge Dellick said that the CASA program has been very helpful to the court.

“We find that CASA gives unbiased but thoughtful opinions and recommendations and the court is able to use those when rendering a decision in a case,” she said. “We support the program because they are independent, they go through extensive training and they do thoughtful work.”

Dellick said research shows that 92 to 94 percent of the children who end up in juvenile court are good kids who have “done a misstep along the way.”

“If we’re going to have a productive society and worthy adults, we have to make sure we don’t do more harm and are able to rehabilitate them and send them on the right path,” Dellick said.

It is imperative that the court system has enough programs in place to address the underlying problems that send young people to juvenile court.

“We feel the kids who come to juvenile court are probably the lucky ones,” Dellick said. “Because there are so many kids out there with mental health issues, with drug and alcohol abuse issues and with violence in the homes. Statistically it is about one in three people and I believe those numbers are underreported. We’re not getting all the kids out there.”

When it comes to the Mahoning County CASA/GAL Program, Fisher said that anyone old enough can volunteer.

“You have to be 21 years old to be a volunteer and we’ve had people as old as 87,” she said. “You don’t have to have any special education. You go through national CASA training. ”

In addition to the dinner, the event included a raffle, a 50/50 drawing and entertainment from Roman Sheffield, a former CASA child who is now a volunteer with the program. Sheffield both played the piano and did a hip-hop dance for the dinner guests. CASA’s active volunteers were also recognized and honored at the event.

For more information on the Mahoning County CASA/GAL Program, visit www.mccasa.org