On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, I had the honor of being a member of the one of the largest groups of Court Appointed Special Advocates ever to be sworn in in Knox County Juvenile Court. I, along with 11 other CASAs, 5 Court Dog Program volunteers, and 4 Court Dogs, was sworn in by Judge Tim Irwin in front of friends, family, and other supportive members of the Knox County Community.
Due to such a high number of new volunteers, this CASA of East Tennessee training session was split into evening and morning classes. Each class had the benefit of being trained by Ada Hernandez-Bell, CASA's knowledgeable Program Manager, whose experience working with children in the juvenile court system provided her with a seemingly endless well of knowledge.
This training was interactive and engaging; volunteers were encouraged to ask questions and participate in group discussions. We were encouraged to think critically as we began to learn how to navigate the world of the juvenile court system.
As we grew and learned together, our camaraderie led us to deeper discussions and a shared understanding of how each participant's unique perspective brings value to the CASA program. Our group activities and conversations grew richer as we developed an increasingly stronger understanding of our roles as advocates for abused and neglected children.
When our swearing-in date finally arrived, we volunteers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of Judge Irwin and swore to perform our duties as CASAs to the best of our abilities and to maintain strict confidentiality, in service of the children of Knox County. To our great joy, we were also able to witness the swearing in of five HABIT volunteers and their service dogs, whose presence at court will be invaluable to all who encounter them.
Many of these volunteers were assigned cases within a week of being sworn in, and some are working with former classmates or seasoned CASAs who have ample experience and perspective to share. It is with great excitement that I anticipate the impact these volunteers will have on families for years to come.