Volunteer Profiles

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we'd like to introduce you to some of our wonderful advocates! 

David

David completed our Spring 2016 training and was assigned a case with two children soon after 

1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?
I've always been looking for ways to support the community in my own way but have not always found opportunities that were a good fit, or haven't come across them at the right time. For about 20 years I've traveled on and off for work, usually internationally and often to developing countries where the community needs were significant, but after much consideration I decided to focus my efforts at home, on my own community, where I best understood the culture and could be involved regularly and for the long term. When I saw the opportunity to join CASA it immediately fit with this idea, and the more I learned about the organization and its goals the more interested I became.

2) What does being a CASA mean to you?
Like everything else, when I started I had one idea of what it meant and that idea has evolved with my experiences. Right now, I'd say that being a CASA means that I've been entrusted with the responsibility to effectively and compassionately advocate for some of the members of my community that need it most. More personally its my commitment to working with and for the brother and sister in my case as they navigate different paths through the foster system.

3) What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?
Early on we were told that 'continuing to show up' would be an important part of the role, and this concept is starting to settle in. I'm continuing to learn about patience, expectations and what success looks like over time and at different scales. I'm seeing some difficult things I wasn't able to fully comprehend before becoming a CASA and some very amazing things that I wouldn't have really appreciated without the benefit of my role in this case.

4) Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.
There are a lot memorable moments, some heartbreaking, many that are humbling, others uplifting and some very funny encounters as well. My case is ongoing so I prefer to be cautious with details, but most of what immediately comes to mind has to do with trust and understanding: not having it, gaining it, always working for it.

Carol

 

Carol completed our Spring 2016 training and was assigned a case with a 10 year-old boy. 

1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?

I was a school principal for twenty-six years, and a social worker before that. I have been very fortunate in both my professional and family life, and when I retired wanted to do something that would make a difference. I know what can happen when children have someone in their corner, be it a parent, a teacher, or a social worker. I wanted to advocate for a child who needed that voice.

2) What does being a CASA mean to you?

This has been the most humbling experience of my life. My CASA child and his mother have lived in a series of homeless shelters for two years. They lack the most basic things that most of us take for granted. My CASA child is living with autism and his mother struggles with mental health challenges. Her own mother struggled with addiction and she (my CASA mother) has been on her own since she was fifteen. I often wonder how I would have survived given the hand they have been dealt.

I have also met incredible people whose lives are dedicated to abused and neglected children and their families. My CASA supervisor was herself a foster child and her story is an amazing tribute to what the human spirit is capable of achieving under the dimmest circumstances. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) caseworker, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) social worker, and Metropolitan Community Housing Partnership (MCHP) counselor have worked tirelessly for this family despite the fact that all of them are burdened by red tape and bureaucratic rules.

3) What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?

I have learned that the wheels of progress move very slowly. Court hearings can be canceled or continued, so long periods of time go by where nothing seems to move forward. Paperwork gets lost, caseworkers change. I am used to being in charge and making things happen, so I have learned to be patient. And, miraculously, things happen if you hang in there long enough and persistently advocate. My CASA child finally had a comprehensive neuro-psych evaluation and long needed dental work completed.

4) Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.

The most memorable moment for me was when my CASA child and his mother were about to get evicted from their homeless shelter. They were going to be packed up and put out on the street, resulting in my CASA child being placed in foster care. I was able to track down the supervisor and attorney for the Department of Housing as well as the attorney for my CASA mother and it turned out that the child's disability had not been documented. This resulted in a temporary stay of the eviction. I was then able to get her a housing attorney from Greater Boston Legal Services and the eviction was overturned on appeal.

Catherine


Catherine completed our Spring 2015 training and accepted a case with a 15 year-old girl, with whom she is still working with currently. 

1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?

I have always cared about the foster care system and child welfare in general. In fifth grade, my teacher had us write letters to George W. Bush, asking him to change something about the United States, and I requested that he improve the foster care system and offer more support to kids in care. I learned about CASA in 2015, and applied to be an advocate.

2) What does being a CASA mean to you?

As a CASA, I’m able to give a voice to those who are generally unheard. This is extremely powerful…it’s true advocacy, and I feel honored to do it. I'm thankful for the Boston CASA staff that work tirelessly for the program and for our court system for allowing such a program to exist. Child advocacy is one small step toward justice in my eyes. We're providing our court system with the information that they need, and our youth with the voices and love that they deserve. My CASA youth is one of the strongest people that I have ever met, and I'm honored to be a part of her life. The relationship I've built with her means so much to me.

3) What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?

I have learned so much! I've learned a lot about myself and my growing edges. You’re in the field, doing hard work, you learn how your personality traits can either help you accomplish something, or make it more difficult. I have learned to be more firm and less of a people pleaser, how to better communicate with teenagers, and how to manage my expectations.

I have also learned how unique the daily lives of teens in foster care are. Communicating with different caretakers, figuring out who can help you with what, and where you're going to live in the summertime when you go to college are not things that youth who are not in foster care generally experience. I hope having a CASA makes this process a little easier for my youth.

4) Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.

As I expected, my CASA youth was resistant to communicating with me at the start of the case. She would blow me off or not answer my calls. My CASA Advocate Supervisor encouraged me to "keep showing up" and to not give up. After a few months, we started to connect. One night this past summer, my youth called me because she was upset about missing someone close to her. She was crying. It was heartbreaking to hear her upset, but the fact that she reached out to me in that moment was incredible. There was a time when she wanted nothing to do with me! The experience reinforced that building trust takes time, especially for kids in foster care. In that moment, I felt so proud of my work and of how far she and I have come.

Resie

 

1)  Why did you decide to become a CASA?I was looking for some type of volunteering to do when I became an empty nester.  I have always volunteered, but wanted to do something more involved and working directly with the people who needed help.  Since I have three kids, children are a main focus for me and CASA seemed to fit all of my criteria!


2)  What does being a CASA mean to you?

CASA has been an amazing experience for me - it has introduced me to some of the most passionate and caring people I have ever met in the other volunteers and Boston CASA staff.  The work I do on behalf of my CASA teen can be really challenging, but I think I have actually received more than I've given throughout this experience.  


3)  What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?

I have learned so much from my work with CASA - I have learned that no situation is exactly as it may seem and that showing a child unconditional acceptance and understanding can really make a difference.  I have learned to have more patience and perseverance.  The path in the work we do is not always what we think it will be and the little things are often extremely important.
 

4)  Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.

I have had many memorable moments as I have been with my CASA child as he really struggles through life.  Watching him open up and begin to understand why I am working with him and begin to trust me has been really neat.  Recently, during my visit to him in his secure DYS facility, he walked in with a painting he had just completed.  I was thrilled that he cared enough to bring it in to show me.  As I was complimenting him on his work, he told me he had done the painting for me!  I have it proudly displayed in my home now!!

  

Paula

 

Paula completed our Fall 2014 training and has worked on three cases with Boston CASA. 

1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?

I have worked as an educational advocate for 20 years. I saw so many kids that were becoming involved in the courts that I really wanted to understand how to better help our children that were stuck in this cycle.  

2)  What does being a CASA mean to you?

Being a CASA means that you are working every day to ensure your CASA child has everything they need to meet their social, emotional, physical, medical and educational needs. It is up to a CASA to ensure the team working for the child is doing everything humanly possible to support that child, and to think creatively on how to improve the quality of care the child receives.

3)  What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?

At Boston CASA, it takes a village to do our job as well; I do not do my job in a vacuum. Boston CASA’s supervisory team provides daily access to answer questions, resources, legal information, and most importantly…support. And we also depend on the team of DCF social workers, school personnel, foster parents, attorneys, residential counselors, clinical care workers, doctors, court officers, extra-curricular providers, coaches, mentors, and parents to coordinate a child’s care. We have learned to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments for our children…a good grade, access to medical care, a reunification plan, a child who gets to go to an afterschool art class, or an overnight home visit to Mom…with such overwhelming joy! 


4)  Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.

The kids I have worked with have all been the most amazing people! Building a relationship with them and fighting for their rights and needs bring some frustrations and challenges, without a doubt. But those all melt away every time they call me or I get to see them. And no one cheers louder than I do when they have even the slightest success!

Jim

Jim completed our Spring 2016 training and accepted his first case with 14-year-old "V" after that. 

1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?

A friend who had recently passed away showed me by example that you can really make a difference in a young person’s life by being there with the right advice at the right time. I understood that this (CASA volunteering) was an opportunity to help a child and a family improve their situation in what might be their life’s most difficult time.  

2) What does being a CASA mean to you?

My life feels richer. I enjoy using some of the wisdom and wherewithal I’ve gained over the years to help someone else. At the same time, I’m learning and growing from what my CASA kid is teaching me. We're helping each other become better, wiser people. 

3) What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?

So much--too much to list here. One globally important thing I’ve learned is the importance of building trust with my CASA kid. I’ve also learned a lot about the concept of “practice, practice, practice. Then wing it.”  

4) Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.

 

My CASA kid wrote a letter to the judge where he expressed some of the things he’s learned about himself in the last year. He let me read it...saying it was "just between us two." I saw that he had gained so much understanding about himself and what he wants for his future. That letter isn’t something he could have written a year ago. It brought tears to my eyes. 


 

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