NRTA: AARP's Educator Community is committed to learning, voluntary service and civic participation. More than a decade ago, the organization formed the With Our Youth! program to provide volunteer opportunities for community service projects with youth. For the first three years of the program, NRTA made a pledge to serve 1.5 million youth in 2,000 communities with a total of 45 million service hours through its affiliated state retired educators associations (REAs). The goal was exceeded.
The recipients of NRTA's 14th Annual With Our Youth! awards were chosen for outstanding service to youth in the state, local, individual and impact categories by an independent selection panel. Award recipients include:
Excellence Awards: State Category
Indiana Retired Teachers Association
“CASA, IRTA AND YOU! Working Today for Our Children’s Tomorrow” is more than a catchy title on a brochure: it’s the Indiana Retired Teachers Association’s (IRTA) mission that is being acted upon throughout the state.
The IRTA has partnered with Indiana Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to recruit volunteers for the CASA program. The IRTA-CASA team is a first-of-its-kind partnership that is serving as a national model for emulation in other states. The parents and the court system have representatives who speak for them, but often the child has no one to be an advocate. For every child in foster or group homes, one of three is given extra individual help through the CASA program. This was a compelling reason for IRTA to involve retired teachers in the CASA program as a state group project.
In 2008, IRTA partnered with the Indiana Department of Justice and the existing state CASA program in this endeavor. It was a perfect match for teachers to continue working with youth. Children who become wards of the court are in the program because they have been abandoned, abused or neglected, and they have a great need for someone special whose sole interest is to help the child have a safe home.
One Indiana retired educator CASA wrote that during her 33 years of active teaching, she saw children come to school hungry, bruised, unwashed, in the same clothing day after day, carrying stories of violence and dragging their issues with them. They were supposed to be ready to concentrate on learning. She said, “I knew there had to be something more I could do. When I learned about CASA, I found that something more. The skill set that we as educators possess are those needed to be an effective advocate — compassion, organization and the ability to communicate. It has been said the future walks before us on the feet of a child. As an educator and a CASA, we know we definitely will impact the lives of children and thus the future.”
The CASA, among many other things, visits the school, tracks grades and behavior, oversees dental and medical services, sees that Medicare services are in place, and recommends counseling when needed.
One of the special responsibilities of an advocate is to be the voice of the child when the parents appear in court. To do this, most cases require that the advocate spend six to 10 hours a month with visitation to the foster family or home where the child resides, and they often attend family meetings where parents meet with case workers and service providers. The CASAs spend their own money without compensation, and the length of service of each case is determined by the time needed to resolve the child’s problems. There are about 70 Indiana counties involved in the CASA program. Many Indiana retired teachers have accepted the challenge to become a CASA. They believe that every child deserves to be in a permanent, loving and stable environment, and are well recognized in the Indiana Supreme Court system for their child advocacy work to help make that happen. IRTA CASAs are making a huge contribution to enriching the lives of the many children they serve across the state of Indiana.