By PAUL WIRTH
Diocesan Communications Staff
It’s a sad fact that some children need to be taken from their parents by a legal system determined to protect them from neglect, drug abuse or abandonment.
For these children, life can be a years-long roller coaster of encounters with social workers, courts, foster families, schools and medical professionals. It can be a scary and difficult time.
Vince Wohlheiter aims to ease that burden on children, and to become a consistent and reassuring presence in their lives.
He is a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate, working with one child or group of siblings at a time, for the entire time they are away from their parents.
“The goal is to monitor a case so the child doesn’t get lost in the system, and to make sure the voice of the child is heard,” Wohlheiter says.
This can mean meeting with the child’s foster parents, checking in at school and getting to know teachers, and sometimes going along to medical appointments. He periodically reports back to the court, functioning as the eyes and ears of the judge to ensure that the court’s orders are being carried out in the child’s best interest.
“This is my way of giving back to a community that has been so generous to me,” says Wohlheiter, 76, of Allentown, a member of Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena Parish. He began his work almost immediately after retiring as an electrical engineer, and is one of 35 such advocates in Lehigh County.
Wohlheiter’s work also has a strong tie-in to his faith. “Jesus said ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’” he says. “I believe we all ought to love our neighbors a little more.”
“Because We Are Catholic” tells the stories of how the people of the Diocese of Allentown make a difference in the lives of others, bringing the Light of Christ to each other and to our community.