Handmade ornaments adorn the tree in Jasper City Hall this year.
At the invitation of Mayor Terry Seitz, the Dubois County Court Appointed Special Advocate Office (CASA) decorated the tree.
Contrasting previous years of twinkling, colorful lights shining brightly from the branches of a tree filled with laughing Santas, stockings and fun candy canes, this year’s tree seemingly fades into the background from the second story city hall window. Besides a couple lights backlighting the display, no lights twinkle among the branches filled with ornaments handmade by the many children entangled in a messy court process due to being neglected or abused.
“After being approached by the mayor, we thought it would be really neat if the children in the CASA program made the ornaments,” said Deena Hubler, director of Dubois County CASA.
The office bought the decorating supplies and created premade kits so the kids could make the different types of ornaments. When the CASA volunteers met with their children, they spent time with them building the ornaments.
“My little kids were excited to do it,” she said.
CASA volunteers help children during the procedures that occur while parents are working to fix the issues that caused the children to be removed in the first place. CASAs meet with their children throughout the process and then give reports to the judge for the benefit of the children they are assigned. The program is designed to ensure these children’s voices are heard during the process.
The children that took part in decorating the ornaments ranged from preschoolers to teenagers and for some, this was the first time they had done a project like this. “Several of them expressed how excited they were to have their ornament on an ‘official’ tree,” Hubler said. “It really meant something to them to do this.”
The activity also gave the CASA volunteers an opportunity to strengthen their bonds with the children. An important aspect as these children sometimes feel lost in the process and broken off from their families.
“It was a fun activity that allowed us to interact and talk with them to see how they are doing or how they are feeling,” Merder said.
Rather than the child’s name on each ornament, a number indicates which child created each ornament and those ornaments will be returned to them at the end of the season.
Dubois County CASA is serving 87 children currently, according to Hubler.
“It is really neat to me that the kids were so impressed they were asked to do this,” Hubler said. “It is unfortunate they were asked to take part because they had been abused or neglected but hopefully, this was a bright spot for them.”
A CASA volunteer training sessions are planned for February. Interested individuals can apply on the CASA webpage of the county’s website here https://www.duboiscountyin.org/departments/dubois_county_casa/index.php