Over the years, Mike Fish has become a huge proponent for the CASA family, as he takes time out of his incredibly full schedule as an attorney to work with broken families in the community.
“I’ve been working with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for a long time, and let me say, it’s been rewarding,” Fish said.
Mike explained that his calling to work for CASA happened at a very young age while he was attending Law School at Valparaiso University.
“Back when I was a law student, we had a requirement to do a certain number of hours for volunteer service. I worked with the Lake County CASA for that project,” Fish said.
After his first experience, Mike decided he wanted to continue to incorporate acts of kindness, such as volunteering, into his daily routine as a lawyer.
“After I had worked with them, I was looking at a way to involve volunteer-ism into my law practice and decided to contact my local Porter County CASA to start training and working with them to become a CASA back in 1998,” Fish said.
Mike reflected on one of the families that impacted him the most.
“There have been so many families I have worked with,” Fish said. “My most memorable time was working with two children whose mother was struggling with drugs. Her sister and brother in law took in her girls and raised them.”
Mike said that act of kindness was influential. He was inspired that another family was willing to take care of children that weren’t their own, without any ill will towards the mother.
“People have such big hearts,” Fish said. “They took care of those kids until she [the mother] could reassume her role as a mother.”
CASA Assistant Director, Regina Cross, states that Mike himself is one of those people with a kind, big heart. Not only has Mike served children as a volunteer advocate, but she can also always count on Mike to help out the CASA program with legal assistance from time to time.
Mike’s background is loaded with vast experience, as he serves both in the active Army National Guard and as an Army Lawyer. He sees parallels between both his day job and work at CASA; he has learned to balance both with different types of approaches.
“[In the army] we do things with more of a strong hand,” Fish said. “We deal with kids, 17 to 19, often times who enlisted in the army not really knowing what they were getting in to.
There, I’ve worked with kids who have gone astray, with discipline problems or personal problems.
“It’s got a parallel feeling to the juvenile court system. CASA provides a gentle more comfortable approach. There, we deal with parents of kids who have made bad life decisions, and now have a child they cannot take care of because of their mental state.”
Mike mentioned that he has always had a strong relationship with the Department of Child Services in Porter County.
“Case managers there have always been very professional and helpful; they make smart recommendations for families.”
Given his busy schedule, Mike still makes it a priority to find time to keep CASA a part of his life. He also believes that CASA is in constant need of volunteers, as it continues to fill a pivotal role of child advocacy in our counties.
“It’s important for people to be involved with some type of work in the community. Not because they will be reimbursed, but because it is the right thing to do,” Fish said. “The people at CASA are great people to work with.”
Mike’s CASA experience continues to be fruitful, and he believes there is one focal component of a CASA story that makes it especially meaningful and poignant.
“My favorite aspect of it is when you have a success story,” Fish said. “…when the person who was in need of services, who was causing the environment for the child to be unsafe, becomes stabilized.”
Mike encourages anyone to take a minute to reach out for those who cannot speak for themselves.
“It’s so rare to see people be successful in difficult places, especially when it comes to people involved with drugs,” Fish said. “That’s why it’s so important for the Juvenile Court System to have good volunteers, strong people, who are willing to stand up for a kid.”
For more information about CASA, visit their website here or visit their Facebook page here.