Margaret Walsh helps children develop the building blocks they need to grow into adults with compassion, skills and knowledge about the world and their community. She started teaching at the age of 21 in the Spokane Public School System and impacted her students for 37 years. Currently, Walsh participates in the Spokane County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Guardian Ad Litem Program as a child advocate for abused and neglected children in Juvenile Court. The 26 children for whom she advocated in the last eight years now utilize the building blocks she set in place as an elementary school teacher.
Without a volunteer advocate, children have no voice in court. Approximately 30 dependency petitions alleging abuse and neglect are filed in Spokane County per month. Child advocates can serve only a few of the children represented by these petitions; there are not enough volunteers to meet the need. Walsh serves to fill this need and has become one of the most highly regarded and widely respected advocates that have served community children in the 17 years since the CASA program began.
Some of Walsh’s most difficult cases have taken up to six years for a permanent plan for the child to be achieved. During the years children are involved in Juvenile Court proceedings, Walsh has monitored court orders and reported to the judge when his/her orders have been violated. She has watched children grow from newborns or toddlers to school-aged children before their lives have achieved stability. She has interviewed parents made incompetent by mental illness or the effects of alcohol or drugs. Her interviews with community professionals and collateral sources have often provided essential information needed to resolve case problems.
Whenever possible, Walsh follows the lives of children and their parents after they have moved from her direct circle of influence. In her cases, there have been numerous times when parents’ rights to raise their child have been terminated, resulting in their child being adopted by a family who can provide a more stable and permanent home. She has maintained periodic contact with some of the parents whose parental rights have been terminated. For example, Walsh meets twice a year with the mother of the first case to which she was appointed, around the child’s birthday and again near Christmas, to share the child’s progress with his birth mother and to assure the birth mother of her child’s good health and happiness.
The action taken by Margaret Walsh on behalf of abused children has often made the significant difference in a child’s life. Without her investigation and follow-through, a child’s life could well have continued on a downhill path.