Rosevelyn Lieberman and Fern Katz of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) flank Oakland Probate Judge Barry Grant.
he little girl, probably 3 or 4, took Ro-
sevelyn Lieberman's hand and led her to
her new bedroom, a frilly nook filled with
toys and stuffed animals. "See," she said,
beaming, "I've got two houses that are my
One day, the girl may live permanently in the home
of her parents, a place where she will feel secure and
safe. Until then, her days are divided between her
mother and court-appointed legal guardian. "The moth-
er doesn't yet have full custody, but it could happen.
At least there is contact," said Ms. Lieberman. "Un-
fortunately, it is not in the best interest of the child
to be with her parents, and the courts frequently ask
us to continue to monitor the situation. We do the best
we can with these cases."
Still, that is a success story, said Ms. Lieberman, one
of two chairpeople of NCJW's Court Appointed Special
Advocates (CASA), a program in which volunteers help
place and monitor children and adult wards of the court.
It also offers assistance to parents and guardians who
need help to be responsible caregivers. For example,
CASA was able to hire a housekeeper for a grand-
mother whose hands were full with a very active grand-
child who became her legal charge. It also was able
to send the child to summer camp.
When a guardian is requested for a child or a dis-
abled adult, CASA volunteers might be appointed to
go to the home to investigate conditions and report back
to social workers, psychologists and any other person
connected to the case.
Usually, working in pairs, CASAs, as they are called,
meet with the parent, a teacher or teachers, and the
child. On the day of the guardianship hearing, CASAs
are in court and are generally asked to monitor the
guardianship situation of minor children until they are
18, but if the child is under 6, CASA is required to pro-
vide annual evaluations.
Last year, some 60 CASA volunteers handled 200
cases, many of which carry over year after year, said
Joyce Rubinstein, vice president of public affairs for
NCJW. Some of the volunteers have been with the pro-
gram for a year; others for 12 years. All receive ongo-
CASA grew out of an earlier program at the Oak-
land County Probate Court 16 years ago, and to Ms.
Rubinstein's knowledge, it is the only such
program in the country. CASA no longer
handles hard-core cases that involve abuse
and neglect, but usually drug or alcohol
abuse is a factor in the legal guardianship
cases it handles.
"It's terrific," said Oakland County Pro-
bate Judge Barry Grant of CASA.
"It helps the court, the people, the fam-
ilies. These volunteers are so dedicated and
so interested in the work, they really do an
Ms. Rubinstein recalled a case where
CASA helped the legal guardians of a group
of brothers and sisters become the foster
parents and finally the adoptive parents of
"The mother had an emotional problem
and was constantly up and down and was
not able to take care of the kids. That's a•
nice case, but it was heart-wrenching be-
cause it went on for years," she said. ❑
agda Rimei waves off people who
offer her a chair. She'd be sitting
all day if they had their way.
Well, not everybody. Magda is an
integral member of a crew that
has dawn-duty packing meals for people unable to
arrange their own. They need her on her feet.
Twice each week, she joins dozens of others who
meet at 7:30 a.m. daily in the kitchen at the Jewish
Federation Apartments in Oak Park as volunteers
for kosher Meals on Wheels, a program created by
NCJW 23 years ago.
Magda, by the way, is 93.
Standing on either side of her at a long, stainless-
steel counter one recent frigid morning were Helen
Levy and Ann Arkin, both 84. They were in Mag-
da's assembly line, placing lids on nearly 200 con-
tainers of soup that were in turn packed in bags
bound for homes and apartments throughout the
"When I tell her she can go up and rest, that we're
done, she stays," Ms. Levy said. "When you get old-
er, you look for the warmth and comfort of other
Amid the clatter and chatter of the warm kitchen,
Chef Jeff Rosenberg ladled out soup from a vat be-
hind him, clearly pleased with the corn chowder
that day. He makes everything salt-free, he pro-
claimed. His assistant, Daniel Marshall, dished out
broccoli from a huge metal tray while Magda and
her friends put lids on aluminum trays that were
filled with vegetables and the main course, tuna
casserole. Exhaust from the idling cars and deliv-
ery vans outside curled in the frosty air while men
bundled up in parkas and scarves started loading.
Two of the delivery men are over 90.
Roving around kibitzing and advising with the
ease of a veteran director was Myrna Salzman,
chairperson of the program for NCJW. She said
Meals on Wheels provides two meals a day to an av-
erage of 175 clients, some of whom are referred to
the program by Jewish Family Service. A fraction
of the clients can pay the full $40 weekly rate, but
it's fine that most can't; even with a budget from
NCJW, private donations keep the program self-
Meals on Wheels has only one paid employee, a
van driver who has a particularly large route. The
van itself was a gift.
"Having a program like
this is vital for people who
want kosher food and can't
prepare it themselves.
Without it, these people
would be up a creek," she
Magda, who came to
America by way of Hun-
gary and South America,
has been a volunteer for
Meals on Wheels for 20
"I feel that I can yet do
something. It holds me up.
I said, 'Don't send me into
retirement.' " ❑
Marda Rimei has been
packing up meals for NCJW's
kosher Meals on Wheels for
years. Otherwise, she says,
she'd be bored.