Advocating for a child’s best interest inside and outside of the court is a tremendous responsibility, but it’s just one part of what makes a CASA volunteer so incredible. At the most basic level, what a CASA provides for a child who has experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect is showing up, seeing them, and validating them for exactly who they are. Every child is worthy of support, care, and love. For the kids CASAs serve, that message of support, care, and love is urgently needed.
Take Charlie* as an example. Charlie has been involved with the Department of Human Services since 2016 due to emotional, physical, and verbal abuse he experienced from his mother. Unfortunately, his father lives out of state and hasn’t been involved in his care. Charlie is transgender, and he’s never received support from his family or other adults when discussing his identity and feelings. Over the past few years, Charlie has been in and out of hospitals; he was suicidal, took pills, was cutting himself, and was extremely depressed. After several foster placements across Colorado, Charlie landed in his final foster placement in Fort Collins.
Susie was assigned as his CASA Volunteer and immediately connected with him and worked with him in several areas to improve his life skills. This past year, Charlie has been very interested in learning how to cook and bake. Susie stepped up to the plate and put together virtual cooking sessions for her and Charlie. She spent many hours coordinating with his foster parents and Charlie to get needed ingredients and prep for each of their sessions. Susie and Charlie would then, over video conference, cook “together,” making full meals like Mexican meatloaf, pot roast & potatoes, pasta & meatballs, and more. They even spent hours making cut-out holiday cookies Charlie wanted to give to his boyfriend. But Susie and Charlie didn’t just cook together– they went Halloween shopping, out to eat, and talked a lot about what life could look like for Charlie after foster care. Susie encouraged him to look into cosmetology schools and emphasized the importance of hard work, even encouraging him to remain employed at his part-time job and not quit until he’d found another job.
These days, Charlie is also working with a Chaffee worker on additional life skills, housing, medical needs, and additional educational support. He graduated from high school, has moved into an apartment with his boyfriend, and is still employed part-time with plans to start cosmetology school in the fall.
Over the duration of Charlie’s case, Susie saw him, met him on his own terms, and worked to get him the support, care, and community he needed. Even though Charlie’s case has closed, Susie has let him know she’s open to his continuing to reach out to her as long as he wants to. At age 18, Charlie is now legally in his own custody. Thanks in part to his advocate Susie, Charlie is on his own, but he’s not alone.
*Names and identifying information have been changed to protect client identities
Are you interested in becoming a CASA volunteer? Contact Julie Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about upcoming trainings.