WORCESTER — Julie Bowditch brings a unique perspective to her new role as Executive Director of the CASA project in the city.
As the daughter of adoptive parents, she met and got to know hundreds of children in the foster care system. And starting Monday, she will lead an organization that trains volunteers to defend adoptive children in court.
Bowditch’s parents, Tom and Nancy, retired in 2021 after more than three decades. They are still in contact with some of the children who have spent time at their Fitchburg home over the years.
“There’s never been a time when we haven’t had adoptive siblings of different ages and abilities and in all kinds of situations,” Julie Bowditch said, “some for literally a day, d others for years and others adopted by my family.”
Tom and Nancy Bowditch have adopted seven children.
“My family really grew through foster care and adoption,” Julie Bowditch said.
Due to her first-hand experience, Bowditch became involved with the CASA project as a volunteer and member of its board of directors several years ago. She left the board of directors last winter after applying for the position of general manager.
Bowditch said on Facebook that she was “humbled and honoured” to be appointed to lead the organization, adding: “There are many important jobs in the world but, to me, none are as vital as to impact the outcomes of the next generation There are hundreds of vulnerable young people all around us in our local towns and villages and we need to ensure that their stories have happy and healthy endings.
Founded in 1981, Worcester County’s CASA Project has more than 300 trained volunteers who defend adoptive children in custody proceedings at the five local courts that hear juvenile cases: Worcester, Fitchburg, Leominster, Dudley and Milford.
A judge appoints a court-appointed special advocate, also known as a guardian ad litem, to represent a child or group of siblings in court and recommend where the child or children should be permanently placed .
“Over 80% of the time the court acts on the recommendation of CASA, which shows the level of trust in juvenile courts,” Bowditch said. “I can’t overstate how grateful we are to the judges we have in the districts we work in. They have been incredible partners for us at CASA.”
CASAs can not only represent children in court, but also ensure that they get what they need, such as counseling or special education services at school.
“There’s no way, no way we can do the work that we do without these people,” Bowditch said.
Bowditch most recently served as Director of the UMass Cancer Walk and Community Fundraising for UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester for 10 years. She has also worked as a supervisor in a youth residential treatment program and in special education in public schools.
Once she starts working full-time on the CASA project, Bowditch said she has a few priorities she’d like to focus on — continuing to work with county child welfare and mental health agencies. of Worcester, “and ensure that we are a resource for them”, and by diversifying the organization’s staff, volunteers and board of directors to reflect the many languages and backgrounds of the children the CASA project serves .
Bowditch will also help raise awareness of the CASA Project’s next two fundraisers: its annual golf tournament on May 9 at Sterling Country Club, and its Celebration of Champions for Kids, which after taking place virtually last year due of the pandemic, will return as an in-person event.
Fundraisers allow the organization to continue its mission of “changing the story of the child,” one child or family at a time, she said.
For more information about the CASA Project, including how to volunteer as a CASA or support the organization in other ways, visit thecasaproject.org.