Ms. Young has served as a volunteer at Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Cherokee County for more than 10 years and for the past eight years, has served as the advocate supervisor for the organization.
Her extensive history of working with children made her a natural for volunteering for CASA in its infancy during the 1990s.
“It sounded like something I could bring my abilities to,” she said.
Ms. Young’s childhood is very similar to those of children she advocates for on a daily basis.
Ms. Young grew up in Macon with an older brother and younger sister, her father and her mother.
She grew up during a time in which “a man’s home was his castle and he could do what he wished therein.”
Her father, who she said was an alcoholic, became very violent when he drank.
She said she, her mother and her siblings could count on her father having a violent episode every Saturday night. Over time, the outbursts became more frequent, she added.
Initially, Ms. Young said her father physically abused his mother. She and her brother were often banished to the basement and could hear their parents fighting.
As they grew older, Ms. Young said her father began to lash out at her and her brother.
The physical abuse toward her became sexual and Ms. Young said her father molested her between the ages of 10 and 17.
“What a man did in his home was his business when I was growing up,” she said. “There was no good touch and bad touch.”
Often, she and her brother protected each other from their father and Ms. Young added she “made myself available so that my dad would not begin to molest my little sister who was 10 years younger than I am.”
Growing up, Ms. Young said she felt “wired” all the time as she had stress hormones constantly raging throughout her body.
She never had friends come over to spend the night. She would spend as much time as she could with her maternal grandparents who lived in south Georgia, who always loved her unconditionally and taught her life lessons.
She also relied on the support of the youth minister and Sunday school teacher at her childhood church, which she credits with getting involved in activities and “healthy, good projects.”
At 17, Ms. Young said her brother graduated high school and immediately joined the Army to get away from the turmoil in the household.
On a winter day in which her mother and sister were attending a boot camp graduation for her brother, Ms. Young said her father “told me what he wanted from me sexually.”
Ms. Young recalled that she went into her room, moved her dresser behind her door to block her father’s entrance and proceeded to climb out the window.
Ms. Young jumped into two feet of snow and got into her car to hide where she was greeted with thoughts of suicide.
“I felt like if this was what children were supposed to be treated like, I didn’t want to be part of it,” she said of her feelings.
She then thought about the two sets of adults that brought her so much hope, inspiration and love and decided not to act on her thoughts.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t be here today if they had not been involved in my life,” she said.
In that “moment of revelation,” Ms. Young said she realized she did not deserve to be treated that way by anyone, including her own flesh and blood.
The next day, she woke up and went to school wearing the same clothes she had on the night before and aced her exams she was scheduled to take.
Ms. Young recalled a “renewed sense of purpose” and began to fight back against her father’s abuse and advances.
Ms. Young graduated and her father moved out of the house. A week later, she said, he committed suicide.
“At the time, I felt like my nightmare was over,” she said, but adding she still had to deal with the emotional baggage of her childhood.
She eventually received therapy and learned how to cope with the realities of being an abuse survivor.
Despite her past, Ms. Young doesn’t believe she’s an “anomaly.” She uses her position to convey to the public the type of abuse she went through is an everyday occurrence in the lives of Cherokee County children.
Ms. Young and other CASAs advocate for children who have been subjected to a variety of abuse, such as inappropriate discipline, torture, sexual abuse and even incest.
Most disturbing of all, she added, the majority of children experiencing sexual abuse are hurt by someone they know.
Even though Ms. Young said she understands that becoming a CASA is not for everyone, she does encourage the community to get involved in touching a child’s life.
Ms. Young’s dedication hasn’t been lost on other CASA employees and volunteers.
CASA’s Executive Director Deidre Hollands said is a sweet person who is “incredibly passionate” about her job.
“There is not one case that she works she thinks of it as just a case,” she said. “She sees the child, the feelings of the child and the long term impact of every decision that’s made (on the child).”
In her role, Mrs. Hollands said, Ms. Young has a knack for properly guiding volunteers, who may become frustrated at red tape or insensible government policies, into making the best decisions for a child.
Ms. Young graduated in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in business management from Clark State College in Springfield, Ohio.
Before starting at CASA, she worked as a substitute teacher for the Cherokee County School District.
She also used to volunteer at MUST Ministries in Marietta, mentored female students for 10 years at Woodstock Middle School, coached youth track, ran a clown ministry at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite and was the youth director and Sunday school teacher at Kennesaw United Methodist Church.
Ms. Young lives in Canton, has three sons, Matthew, Marcus and Mitchell, and two granddaughters. She attends Hillside United Methodist Church in Towne Lake.
She is a member of the multidisciplinary team at the Anna Crawford Children’s Center, which meets monthly to provide updates on the cases of abused children that come to the center for help and healing.
Ms. Young said it’s been a “blessing” to represent CASA and to work with some of Cherokee County’s most respected legal minds.
She noted each judge feels personally invested in each case as they are able to remember the names and situations of children in front of them.
She also said each CASA volunteer has that same dedication to their roles of advocating for what’s best for a child.
Even though some of the children she and other CASA volunteers speak up for have experienced some of the worst cases of abuse imaginable, Ms. Young said she relies on her faith to pull her through each case.
“I hope to make a difference for one child at a time.”