Each June, Voices for Children joins communities across our country to celebrate Pride Month. Sadly, LGBTQIA+ youth are at an increased risk of abuse that would result in them entering foster care. In addition, once in foster care, they are at an increased risk of displacement. We are honored to serve, support, and speak up for LGBTQIA+ youth during a time that can leave them feeling helpless and unheard.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers provide youth in foster care with much-needed resources and support, acting as the anchor for a child in a sea of uncertainties. This issue of “Inspiring CASAs” will feature three amazing volunteers who provided advocacy for case youth seeking to understand their own gender identity.
CASA Kathy and “Leo”*
In 2017, CASA Kathy was assigned to foster youth “Anna.” Anna had suffered a great deal of trauma as a child and, once in foster care, had to move between several placements. She struggled to cope with her experiences, even engaging in self-harming behaviors. During this time, Anna began to go by the name “Leo” and chose to identify by he/his pronouns.
CASA Kathy knew that Leo’s struggle with his identity, in addition to the trauma he experienced as a child, caused him confusion and pain. Wanting to fully be able to advocate for her case youth, CASA Kathy took LGBTQIA+ inclusivity courses, sought out resources, and encouraged others to hold her accountable to using the correct pronouns for Leo.
Kathy’s persistence in supporting her case youth through his journey helped Leo to feel valued and more stable. Thanks to CASA Kathy’s unyielding advocacy, Leo is working through his self-harming behaviors and feels more at ease with himself.
CASA Robin and “Andy”*
CASA Robin was paired with her case youth, “Andy,” two years ago. At the time, Andy went by his birth name “Alice,” and was struggling with a number of challenges, including depression, self-harm, and self-sabotage. Over the course of his case, Andy also began to question his identity, resulting in his eventual name change and identifying with he/his pronouns.
One of Andy’s biggest fears was that no one would want to adopt a foster youth who had as many insecurities and challenges as he did. CASA Robin assured him that there was someone out there for him and provided the case youth with plenty of resources and information to explore his transitioning options safely. Equipped with CASA Robin’s support and tools, Andy became more confident and was able to implement some healthy ways of processing his feelings.
In September 2018, the opportunity for adoption came up. Andy was excited but anxious, and shared with his CASA that he was worried he might self-sabotage. CASA Robin put his fears to rest by staying by his side. She attended the first few meetings between Andy and his prospective adoptive mother and made him feel more comfortable with the situation. Thanks to CASA Robin, Andy is now more at ease with his identity and hopeful about his future.
CASA Juli and “Lisa”*
“Lisa”, a transgender youth in foster care, was paired with CASA Juli in 2017. At the time, Lisa faced many challenges. Her previous foster mother was uncomfortable with Lisa identifying as female and had given notice of placement change, something that devastated the young girl. CASA Juli helped Lisa through this challenging transition by showing her respect and acceptance. In order to fully advocate for Lisa, CASA Juli took an LGBTQIA+ webinar and maintained open communication with Lisa.
As Lisa’s 18th birthday neared, and she prepared to transition into Extended Foster Care (EFC), CASA Juli remained a strong advocate. She acted as Lisa’s emotional support and motivated the young woman to finish earning her high school diploma. Throughout the case, Lisa and Julie’s rapport grew into a strong, positive bond.
CASA Juli says this of Lisa, “She is a positive, spirited, attractive young woman … [Lisa] is genuinely concerned about empowering other LGBTQIA+ youth and is searching for a welcoming and supportive network for herself.” Thanks to CASA Juli’s genuine support of her case youth, Lisa is now able to take on a role of empowering others just as her CASA did for her.
Become a CASA Volunteer
You too can provide a voice to foster youth who are struggling to process their feelings and trauma. Like CASAs Kathy, Robin, and Juli, your work can provide a lasting impact for a foster youth in need. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, sign up for an upcoming online Volunteer Information Session today.
*Names and other identifying features have been changed to protect confidentiality.