1) What made you want to be a CASA?
I was abused as a child and made devastating choices because of it. Despite the abuse there were also good people who watched out for me as best as they could. I became a Christian in 1999 and got clean from drugs and embraced a new life. Mentors, both men and women, helped me be a better mom than I could have been without their guidance. One in particular, a lady named Diane McCutchen, told me to “pay it forward” when I was healthy and healed. After about 10 years of learning how to be a functional member of society and trying to be a good mom, I decided to become a foster parent. Our family ended up adopting one as our own, but fostering wasn’t the best fit for our family so I looked for other ways to help keep kids safe. I heard about CASA from a Dr. Phil episode and signed up for the spring 2012 training and have been a CASA ever since.
2) What has been the most rewarding thing about being a CASA?
There are so many great things about being a CASA and advocating for kids and encouraging parents and foster parents but, hands down, the most rewarding thing about being a CASA has been the relationship I’ve developed with one of the young ladies I am a CASA for. I’ve been on her case for several years now and have watched her grow from a confused and hurting teenager into a functional, well mannered young woman. I get to see her learn to parent her child in a safer, healthier way than her mom was able to parent her and it is pure joy to have her call and text me, not just because of something on her case but because she appreciates my presence in her life.
3) Why do you think CASAs are important?
I think it is more important that we realize for children to have a stable person in their lives. These kids are taken from traumatic situations and land in homes with rules they’ve never known. They’re dealing with the affects of being abused, neglected and uprooted. Everything is uncertain and scary and they have to try to manage life with limited experience or skills. They need a steady adult to help them navigate. In my daughter’s situation, her Guardian ad Litem was the ONLY consistent adult in her case. Social Workers, foster parents, attorneys changed but her GaL remained. He drove hours to see her when we moved and came to her graduation to celebrate her accomplishment. The consistency of a solid, functional, involved adult is so healthy and healing for a child.
Also, it’s important for children to have someone stand in front of the commissioner on their behalf with an honest, informed opinion on what is truly best. Attorneys advocate for what the client wants, not necessarily what’s best. Social Workers are bound to work within the rules and restrictions of the law, which, again, isn’t always in the best interest of the child. A CASA can tell the court what would actually be in the best interest of the child.
4) What’s one thing, in your work as a CASA, that you are proud of accomplishing?
I’m most proud of continuing on as a CASA for over 5 years. I work full-time and have a busy life so it’s sometimes difficult and stressful to fit it all in but I know that I am making a difference! I am a safe, steady person she can communicate with. I am a guarantee in her life. I remember the adults that were there for me in my young life, it is to God’s glory and their credit that I’m able to be an advocate for a kid like I once was. Every day that I am there for her is an accomplishment I’m super proud of!
5) What was successful about a case you worked?
I worked a case where a child was returned to his parents after being in the system for about two years. I honestly didn’t think he would ever go back. The parents were heavily into drugs, both had other children in state care or that had been adopted by other people. They didn’t even attend the provided visitations with their child. It seemed like it was hopeless. They were notified that the court was going to terminate their rights to this child as well and for some reason, God only knows, something clicked. They got clean together, went to meetings together, got into drug-free housing, took parenting classes and did what it took to get him back. The child was in a very nice relative placement, and had bonded with the family and home and in some ways it was difficult to see a little child “taken” from a safe home to go back to his parents. But they had tried so hard and were so invested and interested in doing right that it was hard to be too sad. I was happy for them all. And in this situation, since it was family, the child could still regularly see the other family members. About a year later, I saw the dad, child and family members that had provided a safe home for so long together at a family fun run. They were all enjoying their family and a safe, healthy family event. It was proof to me that some parents can and will “pull it together” for their kids, and so heart-warming.
6) What would you say to anyone considering becoming a CASA?
It’s not easy, but it’s so worth it… for the kids and for you. If you’ve ever considered, I encourage you to take the training and take one case. It’ll be overwhelming at times but if all of us who are steady and stable can be there for just one child in a traumatic and chaotic situation we can change the future one child at a time. If I can find time to do this, anyone can. Please be a hero for a child!