Children deserve to grow up in a loving home with parents who are able to take care of their physical and emotional needs. However, the reality is many children aren't born into that situation, or at some point during their childhood lose the option, their broken parents can't or won't be able to meet their basic needs and the child is abandoned to an overburdened system. This is where CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) steps in.
As a mentor to a child in need.
My journey with CASA of Denton County began in the summer of 2011 when I trained to become an advocate. I wanted to find a way to give back to our community, and my ability to connect with kids lends itself well to this wonderful organization. The training was intense, several hours over a few short weeks, but well worth the effort when I was sworn in by a Denton County judge to be the voice for the best interests of those children I would chose to represent.
I have taken on four cases in my years with CASA. Each time I have selected a teenage girl. I do this for a few reasons (a) because I think I can relate better to an adolescent girl than I can a boy (even though I have four sons of my own), and (b) because it's easier to find advocates for babies and younger children than it is to find volunteers to work with the older kids.
Each of the four girls I have gotten to know through this program are special young women who, by no fault of their own, have been brought into the system and have had to make resilient their middle name. One of my CASA appointments was for a fifteen-year-old teen whose daughter was starting life within the system that was also raising her mother.
My role as an advocate means I make the time to meet regularly with my CASA child, weekly if possible, to build rapport and trust (I usually do this over lunch or a spin around the mall). I personally feel it is my responsibility to show each of these girls there are people in the world who care about their everyday lives and their future. My wish is to help restore their faith in adults. I also make the necessary phone calls to any potential long-term placements, health care providers, teachers, counselors and anyone else who has contact with the child before attending the scheduled court hearings and using my voice to share their side of the story before the presiding judge.
I may spend fifteen to twenty hours a month volunteering, not much time when you think about it.
April is Child Abuse Awareness month. If you, like me, have a desire to volunteer in your community, please consider looking into CASA, it is a national organization, likely with a chapter near you. There are many kids who need adults willing to listen, connect, and speak for their best interests.