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Volunteering ‘worthwhile’
Gant finds home with local CASA
CASA Volunteer Award 3 es
Susan Gant talks about being named the top CASA in Georgia at her home office. - photo by Emily Saunders
After about a decade of giving children a voice, Susan Gant has been commended for her work.

Gant, a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Forsyth County, was recently named the recipient of the state’s 2009 Karen N. Sibley CASA Volunteer of the Year award.

According to the Georgia CASA Web site, the organization supports court-sanctioned, community-based programs that provide volunteers who advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court deprivation proceedings.

Gant said the goal is to reunify the families whenever possible.

She learned about CASA from a friend and began her training in October 2000.

“I just loved the work,” she said. “It’s something very, very worthwhile.”

Gant explained that a CASA’s job is to assist judges in deciding the best placement for a child who has been removed from home.

“Even in abuse cases, it is rare that I have seen a child that doesn’t want to go back to his family,” Gant said.

As part of her work, she gets to know the parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers and anyone else that plays an important role in the child’s life.

A mother of five and grandmother of 12, Gant lived overseas for 25 years while her husband worked for the Peace Corps.

The cultural sensitivity she learned helped her understand the more subtle cultural differences of the families with which she works for CASA.

Past experiences also made her “more alert and sensitive to the needs of others and just how others operate.”

Having lived in Spanish-speaking countries for 13 years, Gant knows the language and has used her knowledge in her case assignments.

She said through CASA she has been given many opportunities to grow and learn more about Mexican and other Latin American cultures.

“I love the Latino culture, so it just revives my appreciation and love for the culture,” she said.

Georgia CASA has about 2,000 volunteers statewide. In a letter from the group congratulating Gant on the award, she was commended for showing “high standards of dedication to make the child protection system responsive to the needs of the children for whom you advocate.”

The letter went on to say that Gant has inspired others to follow her lead.

“Out of all the CASA volunteers in Georgia, the advocacy you provide is considered to be of the highest quality,” the letter states.

Gant smiled sheepishly when asked what she thought about her honor.

“I’m very shy about it because there are so many deserving CASA volunteers,” she said. “But like in this case, it’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about something about which I’m so passionate and which I feel is so useful.”

Gant said she hopes to encourage others to be volunteers, foster parents, mentors or participate in citizen review panels. The panels assess a child’s progress and make recommendations to the court as to how the case should continue.

Gant is the first CASA of Forsyth volunteer to win the award.

Mary Lamond, executive director of the local office, said Gant has a unique ability to not only advocate, but to express the child’s needs to everyone involved in the case and collaborate to progress on the child’s behalf.

She also commended Gant’s ability to speak Spanish.

“Her language skills have been extremely critical in some of the cases that she’s been assigned to,” Lamond said. “Usually because these parents involved often times do not speak English and she is able to communicate with them effectively when other parties in the case may not have that ability.”

Lamond said the most outstanding thing about Gant is “simply the incredible heart that she has for this kind of work and for people in general.”

Gant said she currently handles three cases involving four children and that the time spent on each case varies.

She said she loves working with local CASA volunteers and staff because of their character, integrity and concern for others.

Gant also praised the work of Forsyth County Juvenile Court Judge J. Russell Jackson.

“He is such an advocate for the child,” she said, adding that Jackson is also patient with parents and gives them ample opportunities to get their children back.

“The longer you work with that man, the more you respect the work he does and his outreach to the community is great too,” she said.

“Forsyth is a great place to be a CASA.”