Sometimes, it only takes one person to make an impact on the life of a child. Our dedicated program volunteers do just that. We’d like to share the story of one of our CASA volunteer’s, in her own words:
I am a CASA volunteer. I’d actually like to start by sharing some song lyrics:
I’m the one who can make the difference
Yes, I will make the difference
Against all odds I can live to share my love with others
Yes, I will make the difference.I will make it!
Take my hand as we make this journey
Across the land!
Ironically, I heard these lyrics being sung by my CASA kids at their choir concert a couple of weeks ago and I think it perfectly encapsulates my work as a CASA volunteer. My job as a CASA volunteer is twofold. First, I conduct an independent investigation of the case. I speak with case workers, therapists, the foster parents, teachers, and others to understand how the children are doing. I always ask for challenges and successes so that I can get a full picture. I utilize this information to write ongoing reports to the court, to make recommendations for what I think is best for the children, and to assist these kids in other ways.
For example, I spent some time speaking with a relative of the children who had stepped forward to say he would be interested in being a permanent home for the children. I was very impressed with what he had to say and, quite frankly, the general energy that came from him. I recommended to the court that visits with him be included and increased. This has given the kids a blood connection, which they were missing. It also allowed them to build a relationship with a sibling that had been out of their life. They have gained a real sense of family through their relationship with this person and the foster parent recently commented that the kids came back from a visit with him the calmest she’d seen them in weeks.
Another example, in speaking with their teachers I found out that the teacher of one of the kids believed she needed an eye exam. Through working with Realities for Children and the CASA staff, we were able to get that child a free eye exam and glasses. With glasses, not only has that child’s school work improved but we have uncovered she has a real a love of reading. She is now reading the Harry Potter series, which is above her grade reading level. Sometimes I also have to share concerns that aren’t so positive, although it’s ultimately better for the kids. Through communications with the kids’ therapist, foster parents, and others it became clear that the kids visiting their parents was not a positive thing. The children became very anxious before visits and the communication between kids and parents at those visits was inappropriate. As a result, I recommended that if visits between the kids and parents were to continue, that they only happen in a therapeutic setting.
The other part of my work is to act as a constant presence in these kids lives. This case is going on its third year now and I have been there from the beginning. On the other hand, the kids are now working with the sixth DHS caseworker that has been assigned to their case. These kids still don’t know whether their parents will be involved in their life or to what extent. They don’t know where they will be living. Unfortunately, even before this case their life was full of uncertainty. The one thing they do know is that at least every couple of weeks I will be spending time with them.
From the beginning I have made very clear to them that they can ask me anything and I will always be honest with them. I am someone they know will give them answers even if they aren’t the ones they want to hear. This has led to some very interesting and entertaining conversations.
On a beautiful sunny day we may go to the park where to start I will play with them. But it usually isn’t long before they find some kids to play with. This gives me the opportunity to observe them. To watch their physical and emotional development – something else to add to my reports to the court. It also gives me the opportunity to just watch them being kids. Enjoying their life. Making new friends. Having fun. Something that has been missing in their lives for a number of years.
We do all sorts of other things too. We go to the movies, see plays, go to museums, go on hikes – just about anything people would normally do with their kids. But for these kids, normal is not something they have had a lot of experience with in the past. Sometimes when this case has become a struggle, and I don’t know where it’s going to end up, I remind myself that if nothing else I have shown these kids what normal feels like.
Through this work I have met two amazing kids who have the possibility to do amazing things. I have broadened their world to new possibilities and I am fighting for their future possibilities. Recently, I was preparing for a particular hearing and I asked the kids if there was anything they wanted me to tell the judge. The first response I got was, “Can you tell them we still want to do things with you?” And although that wasn’t the response I was looking for, it brings me back to those lyrics:
“I’m the one who can make the difference.”