A few years ago, a South Carolina woman started a volunteer opportunity that changed her life.
Monita Hinson-Houston has been happily married for 28 years. She successfully raised a son, and has been a full-time employee at Blue Cross Blue Shield for over 10 years. However, Hinson-Houston still felt she was meant to do more.
“For three to four months I had been talking to my husband about the idea of volunteering,” Hinson-Houston said. “It’s like I kept thinking, ‘there’s something I’m supposed to be doing, but I don’t know what it is.’”
Then one September afternoon, an episode of Dr. Phil led her down a path to a volunteer opportunity she never knew existed.
“I’ve never watched the show before,” Hinson-Houston said. “I just happened to be at home this particular day and was flipping through the channels.”
Dr. Phil McGraw and his wife Robin are spokespeople for the National CASA Association, a network of 955 programs that recruit, train and support volunteers who represent abused and neglected children in court.
The show detailed the role of the volunteer Guardian ad Litem and Hinson-Houston, who was intrigued at the idea of being a child’s advocate, set out to do research. She found the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program in South Carolina, which is part of the National CASA Association.
“When I found out we had this program right here in our community, I reached out to them,” Hinson-Houston said. “A lot of people don’t know there’s a program like this in the area. I get excited telling people.”
Volunteers work with children involved in DSS family court cases. Volunteers meet regularly with the kids, as well as with the parents, teachers, doctors and social workers to get information about the best resolution of the case. A volunteer’s mission is to give the family court judge an accurate picture of the child’s needs and wants.
After undergoing a 30-hour training course and family court observation, Hinson-Houston was ready to start advocating for a child.
“I cannot personally imagine anything more satisfying than being able to make an impact in a child’s life,” Hinson-Houston said. “I never knew there was a program that would allow me to make such a huge impact.”
For more information about becoming a volunteer and to sign up for the next class, visit Greenwood.scgal.org or call (864) 223-4681.
The Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program is a division of the S.C. Governor's Office of Executive Policy and Programs and a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.