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SALT LAKE CITY — A program that helps neglected and abused children often goes unnoticed, but this week we changed that with our High 5.
Mary Lucero realized years ago her calling in life was to help children. Now, that is exactly how she spends her days. She works with CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate.
"They work with our guardian ad litem attorney who represents the abused and neglected kids of Utah and investigates and gathers information so they can represent them and do a better job in court," she said.
The group makes sure that kids who are in a bad situation -- whether it is not being sent to school, not being clean, not being fed enough, or being kept in a home with physical or drug abuse -- have a fighting chance.
"Usually a neighbor will call, a school teacher will report abuse, an extended family member. It could be anybody, even a spouse if there is a messy divorce going on," she said.
- Gather Information
- Document Findings
- Appear in/Attend Court
- Explain What is Going On
- "Be the Glue"
- Be an Educational Advocate
- Recommend Services:
- Monitor Case Plans and Court Orders
- Keep the Guardian ad Litem Informed
- Visit with the Child
The advocates strive to preserve and strengthen the families, but when that's not possible they find these children safe and permanent homes.
"This last year we represented over 15,000 kids, 40 attorneys," Lucero said. She added that people forget things like this happen in the community.
"I don't think anybody really knows or is aware of how many children are abused and neglected," she said.
Matt Brown, a board member for Friends of CASA, said, "Mary is the best. She absolutely deserves a High 5."
"She is committed, dedicated and spends a lot of time, thankless hours, making sure that her volunteers have what they need," he continued. "She is definitely on the front lines fighting the fights."
Lucero said the organization has just over 500 volunteer and could use more.
"If we represented 15,000 children then 15,000 volunteers (would be ideal). Every child should benefit from a CASA volunteer," she said.
Potential volunteers can get more information at UtahCASA.org.
Brown said, "Mary is one of the people out there making their voice heard."
She was honored with a basket full of goodies from our High 5 partner, Les Schwab. If you know someone in our community who is doing something right, you can nominate them here.