Building trust and offering hope to vulnerable children
CASA of the Mid-Shore provides volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates to children under court protection in Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, and Kent Counties due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or their parents’ inability to safely care for them. CASA’s role is a unique one, in which one CASA volunteer works with one child, getting to know that child and providing assessments and recommendations to the court regarding what is needed to meet that child’s best interest.
CASA Volunteer Janet Healy
“In my thirty-six-year career in education, I was often drawn to those children who came to school every day from adverse home situations that would cause most adults to feel hopeless and paralyzed. In the academic setting, I had a role and obligation to fill that often ended when children left my classroom. Today, I can more directly help to provide a more promising outcome for a child because, as a CASA, I become involved in all aspects of the child’s life, family, school, and support systems.
I believe a key to being an effective CASA is to develop relationships with all the people involved in the child’s case, including the child, his/her family, social worker, and educators. Most important is to ‘grow’ a rapport with the child, over time, through being present, listening and observing. That process has helped me to learn what route to use to a child feel comfortable and, hopefully, learn to trust me. I’ve found that easier to accomplish over a meal, doing an activity together, riding in the car, being available if the child reaches out, and remaining consistent in keeping appointments that are scheduled.
The role of CASA isn’t always easy. CASA volunteers learn to deal with very unpleasant stories that are painful to hear, and we ache for the pain of these innocent children. However, we keep our eye on the goal of helping to facilitate positive outcomes for these children, and we see that our work absolutely makes a difference for these children. When we’ve spent time with a child and they introduce us to someone as a trusted friend, when a judge considers the recommendations in our court reports, or when a child is reunited with her family, we see firsthand the value of our role. These are just a few things indicating that our efforts have impacted a young person’s life that might otherwise not have happened.”
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.”
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.
Call 410.822.2966 ex. 6 or Complete the Application Now.