XENIA — The four-foot-tall, 93-year-old proudly displayed a picture of herself wielding a baseball bat at a recent family get together, ready to hit a pitched ball.
“I didn’t run the bases,” Norma “Sue” Behr admitted amidst the marvels of the staff of the Greene County Juvenile Court’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program at a recent retirement luncheon for Behr.
The picture is an insight into the spirit and dedication of the 15-year CASA volunteer. She became an official volunteer for the program at age 78, due to the influence of her second husband of 34 years, Ted, who she met while square dancing.
“Ted was a CASA volunteer before me. I used to help him type his reports — he hated doing that,” she said with a smile. “He had good results with the kids. He told me that I should be a volunteer, too.”
CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of children who are in the court system as a result of abuse, neglect or dependency. After an abundance of training, volunteers are assigned to a child for the duration of a case, usually lasting a year or two. A CASA provides a judge with a carefully researched background of the child to help the court make a sound decision about the child’s future. The CASA makes a recommendation on placement and services and, most importantly, monitors the case until it is resolved.
Behr’s longest assigned child, and her most memorable, was assigned to her when the youth with special needs was in third grade and she worked with him until he was emancipated this year at age 19.
“I worry about my assigned kids, even when the case is completed,” she said. “I wonder where some of them are today.”
Behr’s interest in children began long before her volunteering with the CASA program. A 1950 graduate of Miami Valley School of Nursing, she decided to become a teacher shortly after beginning her nursing career so that she could be home with her husband and kids during the summers. A Greene County resident for many years, she eventually moved to Kettering and taught fourth grade at Miamisburg Schools until her retirement.
“I’m confident she was incredibly compassionate in the classroom, as we definitely see that in her work with us at the court,” said CASA Director Greta McKenzie.
Juvenile Court Judge Amy Lewis described Behr as “always very kind and respectful regardless of how she was treated. She has an even temperament but wouldn’t back down from anything.”
Lewis recalled how one mother met Behr on the front porch with a baseball bat, tapping it in her hand threateningly.
“I tried to sweeten her up, but it didn’t work,” Behr said with a chuckle. “I just left.”
During her 15 years of volunteering with CASA, Behr has contributed 4,436 case hours to the program and has served 63 youth. This has saved the court more than $221,800 in guardian ad litem costs.
“I always tried to make a difference,” Behr said. “Life is funny … there are a lot of hurdles and a lot of good times. I didn’t give up on any child. We all need someone like that in our lives. I loved it and I’ll miss it.”
She plans to spend time reading, playing cards, and enjoying friends and family.
Behr may not be able to run the bases in baseball, but she sure hit a home run for the youth of Greene County during her 15 years with the CASA Program.
Greene County Juvenile Court is now accepting applications to become a CASA volunteer. Training is scheduled for Sept. 13 to Oct. 20. If interested in becoming a child’s voice, contact the CASA office at 937-562-4040 or visit www.greenecountyohio.gov/600/Become-a-CASA-Volunteer.