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Judge Larry Weeks and guardian ad litem Martha Stevens were honored with the Light of Hope Award 2007 by Alaska Court Appointed Special Advocates in a ceremony held Monday at St. Paul's Catholic Church Parish Hall.
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The award honors those who aid neglected or abused children through either the welfare or court systems. The advocates learn about a child's case, facilitate its progression, and monitor that his or her needs are met, and that a permanent plan is developed for the welfare of that child.
Stevens was honored for her role as guardian ad litem, a paid advocacy position she has held since 1993. "Martha is a remarkable woman. Her presence has touched so many people, not only the lives of the children she has advocated for, but those lives the children have touched as they have, undoubtedly, become more productive citizens," said Office of Public Advocacy CASA Supervisor Lynn Squires-White.
In a poignant moment at the ceremony, two teenage girls publicly thanked Stevens for her role in removing them from abusive homes. Both girls were adopted into the same family and thanked Stevens and their adoptive parents for their support and love.
Weeks was honored for his special interest in children's cases and for his tolerance and understanding. "Judge Weeks has a rare talent for explaining complicated situations in plain language that people can actually understand," Janine Reep said when presenting Weeks his award. "Judge Weeks is able to frame facts in ways that often allow parents to acknowledge their need for help and allowing them to make good decisions for their children, while maintaining their pride and dignity."
Weeks became a Superior Court Judge in 1990 and has been Southeast's presiding Judge since 1992. Weeks received a perfect score from social workers and guardians ad litem in the 2005 judicial retention poll. He plans to retire from the bench in June.
Alaska CASA has been active in the state for 20 years. The Court Appointed Special Advocates are community volunteers trained by the Office of Public Advocacy to speak up for abused and neglected children in court. With the information provided by the CASA volunteers, judges are able to make more informed decisions as to what is best for the child.
To learn more about becoming an advocate for neglected or abused children go to www.alaskacasa.org.
Kevin Myers is the director of public relations and marketing at the University of Alaska Southeast.