Tilley was the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce’s guest speaker for the Adairsville Council’s February Eggs and Issues breakfast, and she remarked on the work Advocates for Children performs in the community and the importance of volunteers such as Court Appointed Special Advocates in her work as a judge.
“Our goal is to have a CASA for every child in foster care. We have not yet reached that goal because we have a lot of children in state custody in this county. ... And let me emphasize to you they are volunteers. They do not get paid, but I have had volunteer CASAs travel out of state on their own dime so that I could know which set of relatives was going to be better for the child,” Tilley said, “one in Indiana and one in Ohio. And the only report we ever get when we ask another state if a house is appropriate is that they say the home is physically fine and the family has enough money to take care of the child, but that’s not really the information I’m looking for.
“So, once our CASA has been to these two homes, one home was clearly identified as the better home and I knew where I could place that child safely. I have had CASAs take their Winnebago to Florida to a grandmother’s home there and stop by a Florida prison to get the written consent of the father in placement of the child with the grandmother.”
Tilley described how the recession affected the juvenile court and Division of Family and Children Services’ operations.
“With limited funds it’s triage, triage, triage, and we know that with just so many dollars to go around we want allegations of sexual abuse to be investigated before allegations of why a child is not in school. However, sadly, sometimes the reason [they are] not in school are terrible reasons, like sexual abuse and domestic problems, and that’s what we find out about when these cases come to court,” she said.
Efforts to protect children in need of services, those who fall between dependent and delinquent children, Tilley continued, have shifted toward prevention through various programs such as mentorships and work with organizations like Advocates for Children.
“So we want to prevent neglect, prevent abuse, then we will prevent truancy, prevent runaways, prevent substance abuse, prevent delinquency, prevent dropping out of school, prevent unwanted pregnancies, prevent early births, prevent more neglect and prevent more abuse. Children in need of services are the hybrid between the dependent children and the delinquent children,” Tilley said.
Though the juvenile court system’s website is not yet up and running, Tilley said those interested in volunteering as a CASA or partering with an organization, may contact Advocates for Children at 770-387-1143 or through their website, www.advochild.org.
“We do have success stories, and just like anything else, you don’t realize it’s a success until later,” Tilley said. “I had a young person come back to me this week, she had a bunch of piercings in her face ... and thanked me and said, ‘You were my mother during this.’ So it’s a very good position. I want families to believe I am there to help them and we say that.”
While introducing Tilley, Advocates for Children Executive Director Patty Eagar asked chamber members to consider volunteering or donating to the organization. She said Advocates runs on local money raised throughout the year. Each year, she added, Advocates needs to raise more than $700,000.
“The duck race, while it’s become a fabulous event for this community, only provides two weeks worth of operating income for Advocates. So, say, ‘Oh, Advocates has the duck race, they don’t need us.’ We do. We need you every single day to do ... great advocacy, to do CASA, to do First Steps, we need every single one of you,” Eagar said. “I invite you to invest with us if you haven’t already invested with us and to go to Dancing with the Stars and support the Bartow Education Foundation and the Etowah Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club and everybody else who is worthy, and ... I hope you have a special place in your heart for Advocates.”
Before Tilley’s remarks, Adairsville High School Principal Bruce Mulkey asked those present to donate to the Dancing with the Stars event, and AHS Media Specialist Lena Adams spoke about the importance of the Bartow County Education Foundation Teacher Grant Program to Adairsville schools.
As he wrapped up the breakfast, Adairsville City Council member Lee Castro urged business owners to get involved in local organizations.
“Obviously you joined the chamber of commerce to make money, but what I’ve been hearing more than anything lately is the businesses that serve in the community and get behind some of these things and put some skin in the game that doesn’t have anything to do with their business, for some reason their business is flourishing,” he said. “So I encourage you to volunteer, to mentor, to become involved in these great programs.”