courtesy of KPC Media originally published Nov. 10, 2014.
ANGOLA — A busy DeKalb County woman just added a new, very important, duty to her schedule.
Judy Rensch was sworn in Monday by Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat as a northeastern Indiana Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASAs are volunteers that serve as the eyes and the ears of the court, meeting with children and families involved in court actions. They are the voice of the children, providing detailed reports to judges to help them in rendering their decisions.
“It must be kind of like riding the crest of a tsunami with the undercurrent being abuse and neglect,” said Wheat, who recited an oath with Rensch Monday afternoon. He said often she will find herself in situations involving addiction and abandonment, and there is no doubt her job will be emotionally trying.
Rensch, who works part time for the U.S. Postal Service and is active with the Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren, said she knows it could be difficult.
Steuben Superior Court Judge William Fee said the judges’ doors are open in Steuben County for a CASA who wants to talk about a case after it is completed. Kristi Bachman, director of Northeastern Indiana CASA, said she also is a sounding board.
“They’re here because they have huge hearts and they care,” said Bachman. She admitted it is an emotionally taxing job. The average CASA serves about six years. There are currently 15 volunteers in Steuben County and between 40 and 50 in northeastern Indiana’s five-county district.
Rensch will work primarily in Steuben County. Bachman said Steuben County has a higher caseload, and that often it is easier for a CASA to work in a different community than he or she lives.
Rensch and her husband, Harley, reside in rural Corunna. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.
She became interested in being a CASA after serving on a jury three years ago in a trial that involved the abuse of a 5-year-old child.
“It was rewarding to see that and know you were part of the process,” said Rensch. “I watched the mother’s face particularly when that verdict came down.”
Steuben County CASA Cheryl Weaver will be Rensch’s mentor, and Monday Rensch will sit in on some hearings in Steuben Circuit Court.
CASA is headquartered in Albion and serves Steuben, DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble and Whitley counties.