Sunday, April 01, 2012

40 To 40 Day 13: On Being A CASA

Lucky 13! I wish I could get these done earlier in the day. I just do not have the time. Honestly this is the only thing I've been able to actually accomplish lately with the craziness of our home remodel. Some women splurge for a tummy tuck or bigger boobs when they hit 40 (both of which I could use). Me? Let's give our floor a makeover instead.

That isn't what I wanted to talk about. I spent this weekend doing some training and visiting with my CASA child. As most of you probably know, back in September I decided to follow this new road and start paying forward some of the good fortune that has been bestowed upon me in my life. If you've been following along, you know why I became a CASA. I knew why I wanted to become a CASA, but I really didn't know the depth of this volunteer position until I began my first case in October of last year. First, some information.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Their motto is "For The Child", because that is exactly your role. A voice for the child, and the child's needs only. In Maricopa County alone, there are over 7,000 children in the state system or foster care. Just under 400 of them have a CASA. Now, I'm no math wiz so thank goodness the stats are on this website, but that is about 5%. That's not a good percentage.

Now the next question would naturally be, "well, isn't that what a CPS case worker is for?" Do you know how many cases the case manager in my case has? Over thirty. Thirty different children to keep track of, appear in court for.

I have one, and it's my only case until it's finished.  That means until the child is back with their family or in a permanent placement. So I have the time I can give to really get to know the child, and really get a feel for how the child is doing. Since I'm court appointed, I have access to everything and anyone in the case. It's equivalent to having my own child in a way. The badge gives me badass powers.

But with great power truly does come great responsibility. Remaining unbiased is a huge factor. What I put in a court report weighs heavily on a Judge's decision because of my close interaction with the child. Today I spent the afternoon with the child and family, because the goal in every case is to have them reunify with their parents. Doesn't always happen that way, but that is the goal. So this is one of many opportunities to see how the family is together.

It's rewarding and terrifying. I pull from my own experience as much as I can, especially when the child is frustrated at the process. I know you have to be a team player to get through this, but that doesn't make it easy. It's easy to second guess myself though. I'm a being too trusting? Am I getting the whole story? What if I recommend the wrong thing and it just gets worse?

I just want not only my child, but all the children in the system to know they have a shot. Someone is in their corner, and they are worth it. They deserve happiness as much as anyone else, and it's not their fault they are in this position. Over 6,000 kids in Maricopa County do not know this, because they don't have that person in their corner speaking for them. Speaking TO them. Advocating for their future, for their life.

They are worthy of a chance, and I'm going to show every child I can exactly that.

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