April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

Chuck Grimes: Advocates role reveals depth of problems

By By Chuck [email protected]

I was recently asked if I was enjoying retirement. My reply - that it had taken about a year to adjust to a new lifestyle - was honest enough but perhaps a bit superficial. After 42 years in the classroom, that first year out was a bit strange.

Now - five years removed from grading papers and greeting young masses on a daily basis - there is time to travel, visit grandkids, write a bit and take a more careful look at why more success was not experienced during the four-decade stay in the schoolhouse.

Over the years, there were times that frustration with some kids and their parents battled and chipped away at the mountain of classroom positives. Frustration always seemed to be temporary in nature and most negative moments were closeted away in the back of the mind.

The first substantial and totally relevant volunteer job undertaken after "retirement" provided brief glimpses and possible explanations why every school year did provide for some summertime second-guessing.

Why couldn't Jimmy stay awake in class?

Why wouldn't Sally see how important it was to stay focused?

Why didn't Billy smile more often?

And why did the parents of these three kids always seem to say the right things in conferences but seldom seemed willing to follow through once the family returned home?

Training to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) was suggested. The training was good, for sure. The teacher was outstanding. But the real education did not begin until after graduation.

After three years as a CASA with 1 to 2 cases at a time, this writer was given the opportunity to become more deeply involved. Questions came quickly into full focus. I got stark answers.

After eight months on the job as a GAL/CASA (with multiple cases at a time), I now know about everything there is to know about "Johnny" and "Sally" and "Billy."

The new knowledge is so abundant, that I also now know that my time-and-effort spent in the classroom had little, long-lasting effect on these three kids.

I now know why many efforts and pleas with many parents fell on deaf ears and went uncomprehended and unacted upon once the family returned home from school following a conference .

I now know that in many cases involving the "three kids" - the best I could have ever done is give them a safe and enjoyable place to escape for a few hours, Monday thru Friday. Hopefully, the "enjoyable" piece was in place the majority of the time.

I now know that few family cycles were ever broken (thankfully, there were a few). And I now know why "few" is the key word.

Physical abuse . . . mental abuse . . . addictions . . . neglect . . . meth . . . heroine . . alcohol . . . denial . . . depression . . . psychoses . . . intent to self-harm . . . Gender issues . . . anxiety . . . hunger . . . etc. . . . etc. . . .

Now, with Advocates for Children, this "retired" teacher is a bit more likely to effectively be able to zero in on the above bag of negatives.

Now perhaps - as an Advocate - this "retired teacher" has a better chance to push some buttons that can effectively do the job of pruning and reshaping the family tree.

There are times in this "new" arborist role, when one feels on duty pretty much 24-7. That is because there are so many young people whose parents are barely hanging on and whose children seem to be assured a life that continues the cycle.

In this new role, this Advocate/arborist is convinced there is light at the end of every tunnel. Even on dark, gloomy days when all the clouds located inside the "bag" seem to block it out, the light seldom gets extinguished.

Dimmed? You bet!

Hard to find? Most everyday!

Findable? Difficult, but doable!

The problem? Not enough Advocates!

The young ones among us deserve a chance, but the list of young ones not getting that chance is growing every single day.

The Bartholomew County community has a wealth of talent, drive, knowledge, determination and caring. This community has a big bunch of "arborists" in hiding. And an even bigger bunch of kids in need.

There is no time better than today to step out, step up and join hands with like-minded folks on this mission. For those that have time to persevere and for whom payment has nothing to do with a paycheck but everything to do with intrinsic satisfaction - please give Advocates for Children a call at 812-372-2808 (and maybe ask for Therese or John or drop by the office at 1531 13th St. in Columbus.) You will be welcomed with a smile and wide-open arms.

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