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.
All prospective volunteers are screened and interviewed before being accepted into the Pre-Service Training program, which begins this fall.
Volunteer Subhan Campos
Subhan Campos decided to help children by becoming a CASA volunteer, explaining,
“I believe that every child deserves the best that we can offer so that they can lead better lives and realize their full potential. Children should be able to live in a safe and secure environment where they are not afraid or in danger. As a CASA volunteer, I chose the advocacy route, as I wanted to have a more direct and active impact on a child’s life and make a difference.”
Soon after I completed my training, I was assigned to work with a young boy who is in foster care. This child has been in and out of the foster care system for much of his young life. This child continually sees new faces, from caseworkers and therapists to school and medical professionals. As a result, it’s tough for him to understand the different roles they all play. This creates is a lot of uncertainty in his life. As his CASA volunteer, I hope to become a consistent, stable adult who he can rely on, and hopefully, I can establish a bond of trust with him.
There are no easy answers, and sometimes difficult choices and decisions need to be made, but I believe I am having a positive impact on the life of this child. Through listening and being present in difficult times, I will continue to advocate for him and help him hope for the future.”
Volunteer Fay Mauro
Shortly after moving to Easton in 2017, Fay Mauro read about CASA of the Mid-Shore in a publication.
As she explains:
“I was familiar with CASAs’ work and knew the powerful impact CASA volunteers can have in the lives of neglected children. I have always had a strong interest in how organizations and individuals can make our communities stronger and assure that all our neighbors, especially our children, have their basic needs met. Now I had the time to make a commitment to CASA’s volunteer training and to being an advocate for a child.
After completing the thorough Pre-service Training classes, I was sworn in as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. I was fortunate to be paired with one of the other volunteers from my training class, and. we were appointed to work as a team with two young brothers who are in foster care due to findings of neglect. Each of us takes the lead for one of the boys. My appointed child is a bright, engaging five-year-old. Both boys have been through a lot of trauma and have little trust in the adults who keep coming and going in their lives.
My appointed child and I are slowly building a relationship with each visit. Getting to know him will help me advocate for what he needs to achieve a safe, permanent home. Frequently, my co-CASA and I meet together with the brothers, so they become used to seeing and being with us. We read books and color together, laughing at silly things, and encouraging their creativity. Now that the weather is getting warmer, we will plan outdoor activities with the boys.
By far, my best time was attending a basketball session for four and five-year-olds where I could cheer for the child as he learned about teamwork and used new motor skills. Seeing a real smile on his face was wonderful!
To make a difference in a child’s life, you don’t have to have advanced degrees, be rich, gifted or perfect. You just have to be you, be caring, and be receptive. Always be willing to learn and listen. Each child who CASA works with is one in a million.”
Volunteer Robert A. Neumer
Dorchester County resident Rob Neumer has always been service oriented. His professional choices included ministry, teaching, and counseling. Now retired, his hobbies include woodworking and projects to produce furniture or other practical items that improve the quality of life of the recipient. Additionally, he is on the Board of Directors of the Nathan of Dorchester, the last Skipjack built on the Chesapeake Bay, which is a floating museum dedicated to exhibiting the waterman’s work of the past two hundred years.
Rob explains being a CASA in this way:
“Every child needs and deserves protection, clothing, nutrition, and sustenance for their soul. That being said, I believe that a child also needs boundaries, incentives, challenges, the balance of discipline and recreation, and above all, self-worth. CASA volunteers provide caring guidance and advocacy, hoping to help improve the child’s quality of life. We hope to help children break out of patterns of maltreatment so that they can grow up to become healthy, productive members of the community.
Building meaningful relationships begins with trust, which can be encouraged by empathic listening, by the absence of criticism, by honest praise, and by active involvement. CASA’s involvement offers hope to children who may otherwise feel alone. As Frederick Douglass said, ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ That is the truth.”
Volunteer Jeannette Cassalia
“Dorchester County resident and CASA volunteer, Jeannette Cassalia believes that CASA volunteers can help to change the trajectory of a child’s life by giving children an important gift — a bit of their time.
“My passion for helping children, the elderly, and animals led to my involvement in many volunteer opportunities. Being a CASA volunteer and advocating for a child is the most rewarding role I have found – it is truly a gift.
I was appointed to advocate for a child when she was six months old. Through consistent visits and interactions, she now recognizes my face, smiles, and happily runs to greet me. I give her positive reinforcement by encouraging her as she plays, reads picks up toys, and is gentle with animals. I believe that I have been able to establish a bond of trust with her. Every child deserves a safe, positive environment, and the opportunity to be all they can be. To have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a child is something I will never forget.”
Volunteer Blair Potter
Talbot County resident and five-year CASA volunteer veteran, Blair Potter shares her view on the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
“One of the most important things a CASA does is to be physically present in the many situations where a child needs help, guidance, or simply moral support. Just being there with the child time after time, builds trust.
Being a CASA volunteer requires a willingness to learn, and persistence. The need for compassion is obvious; like all children, they need loving care in a stable, permanent home. Until such a home is found, CASAs help fill the need for love and stability.”
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.”
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.”
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.