Described by staff, volunteers and board members as a determined and passionate advocate for children, Debbie Smith publicly announced her retirement as executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Heartland.
Consistent with her concern for CASA and the children served by their dedicated advocates, she will remain in the leadership role until the organization’s board of directors recruit a successor.
Besides heading the organization’s day-to-day operations for the past four years, Smith’s history with CASA of the Heartland stretches across the past decade. She has touched and had positive influence upon numerous children through the various positions she has held during her tenure.
She first served as a volunteer advocate in 2009. She continued work with CASA through a one-year service commitment with the national VISA volunteer program. These roles led Smith to a staff position as CASA’s volunteer advocate coordinator. Through all these roles she continued to advocate for appointed cases involving one or more children.
She was promoted in 2016 to CASA’s top administrator, following Sylvia Griendling who retired as executive director at the close of 2015.
Those intimately familiar with the inner workings of CASA of the Heartland point to many accomplishments the organization has achieved while Smith has served as its top executive. Funding through grants, event fundraisers, business sponsorships and direct contributions has continued to increase, empowering CASA to meet its mission.
Recruitment of new advocates under her direction has enabled the organization to double its volunteer resources available for case appointment. She also put strong focus on training, effectively doubling case work instruction and education opportunities for advocates and staff.
CASA’s mission is to serve the best interests of children caught in the middle of abuse and neglect cases in Hardin County Family Court. Whether reconnecting these children with their existing families or new ones, permanency within a loving home is the outcome CASA seeks for children in their charge.
National statistics give irrefutable evidence children served by CASA advocates spend less time bouncing from home to home in foster care, are provided more direct and responsible adult guidance and perform better in school than their peers who don’t have an advocate of their own. This results in a better life structure and less emotional trauma, building toward better outcomes for these children later as adults.
As she steps away from the organization to invest more time with family and other callings, Smith is deserving of recognition and thanks for the hard work and dedicated service she has given CASA of the Heartland.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.