Melodee Hanes shares an alarming statistic from a 2009 study by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Conducted to determine how many children in the United States have been exposed to violence at home, school or in the community, the study concluded that more than 60 percent of the 24,000 youths surveyed had been exposed to violence as either a direct victim or a witness.
“We must, as a society, protect our children with all of our effort,” she says. “Their futures depend upon it, and CASA/GAL programs are a critical piece of the answer to this issue.”
At the time of the study, Melodee was serving as assistant administrator of the OJJDP, and would become acting administrator soon after. Earlier in her career, she was a prosecuting attorney, taught child abuse law and worked on the U.S. Senate staff. When her husband was appointed U.S. ambassador to China, she worked with the All-China Women’s Federation on the implementation of their first domestic violence laws.
“In the hundreds of criminal cases I handled involving children under 18 years of age, the CASA/GAL volunteers helped prevent cases from languishing and also gave the child an independent voice. The
CASA/GAL volunteer is critical in determining the best interests of the child.”
An alumna of Theta’s Delta Lambda Chapter at the University of Utah, Melodee believes, “We have a moral obligation to leave this Earth better than we found it. Instilling that notion in young women through Theta’s support of CASA/GAL programs is fundamental to achieving the ‘nobler womanhood’ we have all pledged so many times.”
“CASA and GAL volunteers help protect the most vulnerable of those among us: young children who have experienced abuse and neglect. They give that child a voice when they cannot speak for themselves.”