July 2023 Advocate Spotlight: Janice Hewett
We invite you to meet Janice Hewett, nominated by Case Supervisor Destin Hudek.
“Janice is working her first case since she was sworn in last September,” Destin said. “She has gone above and beyond for the children in this case. She makes more than the required monthly visit to both children, speaks to therapists, arranges sibling visits, and is dedicated to the best interest of the children. She is a strong Advocate and an absolute pleasure to work with. She truly loves children and helping others.”
We asked Janice to share her experiences as an Advocate.
Is there anything unique about your background that contributes to your approach to advocacy?
As a teacher of 30 years, now retired, I deeply believe children are our greatest joy. Advocacy is dependent upon understanding that every child needs and deserves a stable, healthy home to nourish them during their formative years. From serving in public education, I learned we must also appreciate the uniqueness of each child and family so that we all may be able to celebrate what should be the joy of childhood.
How did you become interested in volunteering as AN aDVOCATE?
Working in education was always my mission. After retiring, I needed another way to serve my community and my faith. My daughter suggested that I consider CASA. As I did, I knew CASA would be a blessing for me! I realized she had named the next mission in my life.
Did you have any reservations about volunteering?
This experience has proven to be a position not for those weak in faith. Child advocacy for children in care is of utmost importance to ensure the well-being and best interest of these children. My faith founded in love for humanity overcomes and stifles any reservations concerning delicate situations affecting the lives of precious families. Listening to the careful guidance of my supervisor, Destin Hudek, has helped me to understand that we cannot sit still and do nothing. Instead, we study, research, observe, and counsel each other, in order to become fully present for those in need.
Explain in your own words the work you do as a CASA aDVOCATE. Why is it important for a child in care?
First and foremost, I take seriously that as Advocate, I am appointed by the court to advocate for the best interest of the child or children in my case. As told by the judge on the day I was sworn in as an Advocate, I am the eyes and the ears of the court. We are the independent voice for each child in care. In addition, I have discovered that, at times, the Advocate is the one stable person for a child during what possibly is the most challenging time in their lives. For that reason, we must love these children and help them build connections with their families and communities.
What has surprised you most about your aDVOCACY work?
I believe teaching is a worthy and honorable profession. However, after teaching in public schools for 30 years, I never felt the weight on my shoulders as I have after testifying at a hearing in child protection court. Every educator should be allotted the time and expense to serve as an Advocate for at least one case. The real, sometimes immediate, dire need for help of children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected is overwhelming and life-changing.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being an advocate? Most rewarding?
The most difficult aspect of volunteering as an Advocate is not being able to know the future or change the present for children in care. The lives of these children can be filled with turmoil and change. They often struggle to develop trust outside their nuclear family unit. However, the most rewarding aspect of volunteering as an Advocate is being the constant in their lives. Becoming the person a child in care knows they can depend upon is exceptionally heartwarming.
What would you like the community to know about children in care?
They need you! They need all of us! Trauma is real and damaging. The effects are long lasting. Each child in care has experienced trauma. There is no way around it. Our first job as a society is to stop the trauma and then begin a healing process for every family. This trauma manifests itself in many different destructive ways. Love overcomes trauma, and these children need, want, and deserve the love of each person and entity within their case and within their community.
What have you learned about children in care?
As an Advocate, I have learned that even though children in care are amazingly resilient, the harmful effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can be physiological, lasting, and destructive. These injurious characteristics are passed down from generation to generation, but it can be stopped. Those I have met in the system—caregivers, attorneys, caseworkers, supervisors, and judges—are ready to do their part. They partake in continuing education, independent research, and spend hours working toward healing and reunifying families. Their jobs are hard and their efforts are often misunderstood and go unappreciated at best, but they are the unsung heroes who are working to better the lives of our children and families in our community.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
I have many moments that I cherish—a child smiling from ear to ear when they see me, a child telling me that I’m the only one who has ever visited them at school, or a child talking with me about the many different people, homes, and friends they know they will never see again. But I will cherish in my heart forever the first time a child in care felt safe enough to tell me, “I love you.”
Anything else you want to share about casa?
Being an Advocate is not for everyone. You see things you never want to see again. You wrestle with the pain and anguish of these children. Tears will fall from your eyes for them, but as an Advocate, your heart will be fully enriched knowing you, too, are an unsung hero. Children in care need Advocates.