“Kids’ Voice is where my heart is,” says Eddie Rivers, chief development officer of Kids’ Voice of Indiana, an organization focused on serving children in the Indianapolis community through its three main programs.
Rivers first became involved with the organization, which was founded in 1985, as a client through the Bette J. Dick Guardian ad Litem Program for Kids. The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program allows Marion County judges and judicial officers to appoint Kids’ Voice on cases in Marion Superior Courts, Civil Division and Probate Division, and the Marion Circuit Court, Paternity Division in order to serve the best interests of a child or children in that case. The result, aptly, is giving the children served a voice.
“For me, it’s certainly putting a voice for the kid into the court system, but really it’s a chance. Many of these kids don’t have a chance if they don’t have a voice,” says Kory Futa, a member of the board of directors. The program has continuously served over 200 children annually for the last 20 years.
This year, Kids’ Voice is celebrating its service in Indiana for 35 years, which has expanded greatly since 1985. Although its GAL program is its most well-known program, the organization also serves the community through two other programs: the Derelle Watson-Duvall Children’s Law Center of Indiana and the Jenny Miller Safe Child Parenting Time Program. The Derelle Watson-Duvall Children’s Law Center of Indiana is tasked with serving attorneys, judicial officers, child service providers, and the general public through education and training about family law in the state of Indiana. The Jenny Miller Safe Child Parenting Time Program provides supervised court ordered visitation between children and their non-custodial parent in a neutral, safe environment. Through these three programs, Kids’ Voice is able to realize its mission to advocate, educate and protect.
Kids’ Voice also provides an opportunity in the community for individuals to make a difference by becoming a volunteer GAD to a vulnerable child. Currently, Kids’ Voice has nearly 300 active volunteers, including law students, attorneys and lay individuals. However, there is always a need for volunteer GAD to help best serve the interests of children in the Indianapolis community.
“As a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, I am able to be a voice for those children in these vulnerable situations,” says volunteer GAD Maria Larrison.
“We’re in need of volunteers and supporters now more than ever,” says Lindsay Scott, current president and CEO of Kids’ Voice. Although Kids’ Voice has experienced much success in representing the best interests of children in the Indianapolis community, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges for the organization.
“The pandemic has brought a host of issues to the surface for families,” Scott says. With the stay-at-home order put in place in Indiana, issues of family conflict, child abuse and neglect and domestic violence have been exasperated. On the other side of the pandemic, Kids’ Voice expects an influx of families and children in need of its services.
“We, as an organization, are still finding novel ways to serve our community during this time,” Scott says. Kids’ Voice has created a resource page addressing family law issues that may arise during the pandemic that is free and accessible here through their website.
For more information about how you can become a kid’s voice as a volunteer GAD or to find other ways to help, visit kidsvoicein.org/get-involved.