Building trust and offering hope to vulnerable children
Working with CASA of the Mid-Shore, volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates give their time, energy, and their compassion in an effort to create real, lasting, and positive change for local children. All children served by CASA of the Mid-Shore are under the protection of the court due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or their parents’ inability to safely care for them. These children face major barriers during their journeys to safe, permanent homes, often changing schools and foster placements multiple times. Every child deserves individual advocacy regarding their best interest, which is where CASA comes in.
CASA volunteers are assigned to work with one child at a time. CASA volunteers research their appointed child’s background, get to know the child, identify the child’s needs, attend court hearings, and make recommendations to assist the judge in making decisions that are in the child’s best interest. CASA closely follows the case to ensure the child receives services with the ultimate goal of seeing the child placed in a safe, permanent home.
Thoughts from CASA Volunteer Joan Groce
“My caring and love for children began with nieces, nephews, my own children, then grandchildren, great-nieces, and great-nephews. I was a Sunday School Teacher, a Youth Counselor, and a Youth Choir Director, which provided me with many teachable moments about helping young people through growing pains.
After retiring, I searched for the best way to give of myself, so I served on many civic and religious committees and organizations. It was during this time that I learned about the unique role of Court Appointed Special Advocates. I know only one way to give, and that is to give my best in whatever I do. I found a good fit with CASA and am pleased to say that this is my seventh year as a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer.
I am now appointed as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate on my third case for a Child in Need of Assistance. It takes time and patience to build a relationship with a child, and it takes time for a child to begin to trust. In my current case, our relationship began with many visits to the child’s foster home, where I learned about the background of the child and her situation. Over time, I built trust by being present, offering encouragement, and spending time getting to know the child and the people who touched her life. I remind myself that it is not my role to fix things in this child’s life. Rather, I identify her needs and advocate for whatever is necessary to meet those needs.
Children in foster care have many valid concerns. How will I be cared for in this home? How am I expected to act in a new home? Will I ever find a “forever” home and will I be adopted or reunited with a family member? Foster children have experienced hardships and trauma through no fault of their own, and they may choose troubled paths that have many bends and curves, even with a CASA by their side. CASA volunteers are often the only consistent adult in that child’s life. We learn early on that we do not have to be Santa Claus to bring important gifts into a child’s life. Each child simply wants to be seen, understood, loved, and each child deserves to find hope. CASA helps in this regard by speaking up for each child, giving them hope that their situation is worthy of attention and that their future matters.
One of my favorite moments as a CASA volunteer was when I surprised the child by attending her dance performance at her high school. She glowed with appreciation when she realized that I was there just for her. When I see her smile and get a hug, it is her way of thanking me for caring. Those times are my high moments.”
Thoughts from CASA Volunteer James Pinkett
CASA Volunteer, James Pinkett, shares his views regarding his work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate; “I reassure my (appointed) child that I am not replacing his parents. I am there for him, always nearby, to spend time, to listen, to talk. I care about his wellbeing, his situation, and his future. Over time that sets a child at ease and he begins to relax. That’s how I build trust. My heart really smiles when I know he is doing well. I see him begin to feel hopeful because only then can he can start to dream about his future. To me, to lift up a child’s life, to offer hope, trust, and safety, only then can that child begin to believe in a positive future.”
CASA of the Mid-Shore is currently accepting applications from residents of Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties, who are interested in becoming CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Volunteers.