April 29, 2010
In just under two days, Phil Giaramita learned the best ways to gather information about court procedures and document writing in order to volunteer for the Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates group for children (PCASA). Giaramita says the work he does is best described in the popular song "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
"You enter a child's life at a time of danger, when there's a threatening environment. You are helping them get to a safer place," said Giaramita.
PCASA Executive Director, Ruth Stone, and Giaramita, who volunteers with CASA, peruse confidential folders, reviewing cases of children who have been abused or neglected.
"It can be emotionally draining. It can be unpredictable. It's not fun writing court reports sometimes, but it is also rewarding. You can actually see a life change before your eyes, and there's no way you can measure the value of that," said Stone.
Stone says volunteering with the Piedmont CASA is not something people dabble with.
"Our volunteers often agonize over their cases, and they take very seriously their decisions and recommendations to the court. Many of the children we work with don't have a positive male role models in their lives, so having Phil as a man commit to something that is really about children is just a tremendous gift," said Stone.
Over the past seven years, the cases Giaramita has worked on have ranged in severity, although each one is as tough to swallow as the next.
"A young girl came to the attention of social services because she was going through the neighbor's garbage looking for food to eat," explained Giaramita.
And it's stories like that one which fuel this father of three's desire to volunteer his time to fill a position he wishes didn't need filling.
"Children aren't any different. My children, my neighbor's children, the children who are in the CASA program have the same aspirations and dreams and fears," said Giaramita.