SHERIDAN — Sheryl Bunting knew what she was getting into when she took the job as juvenile deputy county attorney. Ten years later, Bunting finds herself on the list of Champions for Children, which also celebrates 10 years of advocating for the children in the community.
“It’s not enough that this is your job and you’re supposed to do that,” said Susan Carr, executive director for Compass Center for Families in Sheridan. “No, it’s beyond that.”
Compass Center for Families and the Court-Appointed Child Advocate program chose its first Champion for Children 10 years ago to honor community members going above their call of duty to positively impact children’s lives.
“Each one of them have made such a powerful transformation in people’s lives that you can’t help but be reduced to cliches,” Carr said.
When Carr told Bunting about receiving the Champion for Children award, Carr praised Bunting for her resilience in an ever-difficult job.
“You have been doing this work for so long, and by this justification in the world you should be burned out and tired of families and tired of hearing the same thing over and over again and tired of giving all these extra chances, and you’re not,” Carr told Bunting. “You still bring a fresh look to every family that comes in front of that judge and wants them to genuinely succeed.”
Bunting became drawn to the juvenile sector of law early in her now 22-year-long, ongoing career. While in private practice, Bunting worked on both sides, advocating for both the parents and the children. In divorce cases she recognized its effect on the children.
“It always affects the kids; it just does,” Bunting said. “And it’s crucial how you handle it.”
Often, Bunting sees more disappointments than celebrations. What keeps her moving forward is her hope for a better future for each child.
“I think I had the right idea that I don’t have a magic wand and I can’t fix all of this, but just being part of a process and trying to help parents be better parents,” Bunting said. “I had to lower my expectations somewhat because we don’t all parent up here [at higher levels].”
Bunting is often asked how she continues working in such a difficult position.
“Going into law, my train of thought was always to help people,” Bunting said. “I always wanted to do that in some way, and this was a way in which I can do that.”
People estimate about a six- to seven-year run for those entering the juvenile field, but Bunting’s optimism and hope moved her into year 10. She keeps focused on the “feel-good” cases that represent success in restoration of parent-child relationships. Part of her outlook also rests in the realization that every case is more complex than it initially seems.
Bunting said Child In Need of Services, or CHIN, cases are the most interesting, as each case may start as a simple truancy where a child is in trouble at school. But, peeling back layers shows a host of issues that contribute to the behavior of the child. Bunting ensures children voices are heard in the midst of parental substance abuse, mental health and domestic troubles.
The teamwork aspect is where Sheridan thrives and where Bunting finds the most pride in her work. She lauded the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in being the eyes and ears of the court system process, and Carr returned the sentiment wholeheartedly.
“A lot of people in her positions would have become jaded and hardened at this point, but she’s not,” Carr said. “She’s one of the most passionate and caring people I’ve ever met and truly loves the kids she’s working for. We as a community are lucky to have her.”
Compass will honor Bunting with the 2018 Champion for Children honor during Compass’ Light of Hope breakfast April 27 at 7:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn convention center.