08/29/04 — Guardian ad Litem program needs volunteers

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Guardian ad Litem program needs volunteers

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on August 29, 2004 8:14 AM

The number of abused and neglected children in Wayne County is growing at an alarming rate, says a court official who works with them. The situation will not change, she says, until the law is strengthened.

Colleen Kosinski, the district Guardian ad Litem supervisor, said Friday that the maximum prison sentence for misdemeanor child abuse is 120 days.

"A person can steal a dog and be charged with a felony," she said.

The only way a person can be charged with felony child abuse is to inflict permanent injury.

"My goal is to let people know about the law," she said.

"A child was hit in the eye in another county and suffered a permanent vision problem and may be blind in that eye for the rest of his life," Mrs. Kosinski said.

The defendant was sentenced only to 120 days active and two years' probation.

"That's wrong," she declared.

The situation "won't get better until the laws are changed," Mrs. Kosinski said. "The community needs to get mad at this and then speak out. That's why the abuse rate continues to climb. There's no deterrent to abusing a child."

Mrs. Kosinsky said her office worked last year with 292 abused and neglected children from 173 families in Wayne County.

Ninety-three volunteers investigated these cases and advocated for these children in 577 hearings in court.

With the rise in the rates of abuse and neglect, Mrs. Kosinski said, the Guardian ad Litem program was blessed with a large group of new volunteers to advocate for the children.

Eleven volunteers were sworn in Thursday by District Court Judge Rose V. Williams in Wayne County.

They are Karen LeForce, Marim Strong, the Rev. Jesse Garrett, Bajei Garrett, Halestine Jones, Deborah Uzzell, Sandy Allen, Edward Bell, Dorothy Allsbrook, Capri Smith and Sue Fordham.

Other volunteers also were sworn in last week in Greene and Lenoir, the other counties in the 8th Judicial District.

For the three counties, Mrs. Kosinski said, 148 volunteers advocated last year for 514 children in 291 families in 925 court hearings.