My journey with CASA began in 2007 shortly after I received my degree in Social Work. Next to raising my children, graduating from college as a non-traditional student was one of my greatest accomplishments and I was soon hired as a Case Manager for the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) in North Georgia. I quickly found my passion with working in foster care and adoptions. I learned the rewards of working with foster families, relatives and caring friends who provide safety and stability to a child during difficult circumstances. My experience taught me that the relationship between a CASA volunteer and a child suffering from trauma was part of a safe, stable healing process as the child will feel secure knowing that someone cares and “has their back.”
When I relocated to the Savannah area a few years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue this journey as a CASA volunteer. I knew the complex emotional experiences that I was getting into. I knew policy and the court system. Yet, I felt drawn to support a child, especially an older child or teenager, in care. I signed up to be a CASA and after many weeks of classroom and courtroom trainings, I was ready. Swear-in day was pre-Covid, so many families were in the courtroom taking part in the happy occasion. My transition from working with CASA volunteers as a DFCS staff, to becoming a CASA volunteer myself was finally here.
I looked up after signing my order in the courtroom and there was my Coordinator approaching me with a case. A newborn had just entered foster care. One could only imagine the look on my face as I thought about the teenager who would be missing out on my presence in their life. Even though, I knew my purpose was to advocate for all children regardless of age, race or culture. I accepted the case and 3 plus years later, a sibling was added to the case. Today, the children are together in a safe, stable and loving home awaiting adoption.
In May 2021, I was honored to transition from Volunteer Advocate to staff with Savannah CASA. Recently, I discussed my experience of getting a case that I didn’t expect with a new volunteer. I talked about the privilege of watching not one, but two newborn siblings, both with special needs, multiple health problems and developmental issues, grow and develop into healthy toddlers as a result of the stability, safety and love received from their caregivers and community. I am enlightened by the joy I hear in the voices of the relatives and foster parents who want nothing more than to talk about the children’s progress, the familial bonds and how much their life has changed for the better. Rarely, do I hear about the difficult times, hard moments, numerous doctor’s appointments and sleepless nights. The emotional bonding that resulted keeping the siblings together outweighed these many challenges.
What I Have Learned
Over the years, I have worked with numerous CASA volunteers on difficult cases of abuse and neglect. With the countless hours in the courtroom, writing reports, tracking down case workers, counselors, teachers, and providers, while being an emotional support for children who are traumatized and marginalized, I realize that CASA volunteers are some of the most selfless, dedicated and compassionate people I know. There are days of sadness, frustration and disappointment. However, I believe that many, like myself, would not change the experience of being a Court Appointed Child Advocate for anything. Without my journey, I would not have crossed paths with individuals from widely diverse backgrounds who have stepped forward to help a child. I would not have had the privilege of, first becoming a CASA volunteer and then, expanding my opportunity to contribute by joining this amazing team.