Each and every CASA has their own unique volunteer experience. Explore the stories below to discover the rewarding, funny, challenging, and unpredictable sides of being a CASA volunteer. Through the work of ordinary people with extraordinary hearts, these children's voices are heard.
By CASA Kristen
When I first became a CASA, I was scared. During training, they told us about a current case that was very challenging, and I raised my hand to volunteer for those children. But when they actually assigned it to me, I questioned whether I was worthy of that confidence.
The case was a set of siblings – a 10-year-old boy, a 5-year-old girl, and their 18-month-old brother. Their home situation was difficult, to say the least.
For me, the biggest challenge was finding a way to connect with the children. They are so distrusting of new people that it can be difficult.
As I learned about each child, I discovered they each had their own set of needs. The 10-year-old had not been attending school, so he was very behind in his education. The 5-year-old had not had much social interaction, and she struggled to know what was socially acceptable. And the 18-month-old was completely non-verbal when he was removed from the home.
Over time, I built trust with the children by giving them their own voice. I let them know their opinions matter, and we did activities that interested them. We would do things as simple as going out for a meal; their favorite was anywhere they could order a shake! We went to lots of museums together. And, through Voices for Children’s partnership, I was able to take them to Legoland as a group!
As we spent time together and I began to gain their trust, I also worked “behind the scenes” with caregivers, teachers, and other professionals on the case. We went through testing with the 10-year-old, and I was able to get him the extra help he needed to get caught up, including an Individualized Education Program (IEP). He even joined karate!
The 5-year-old was a spunky little thing, and we were able to help her learn about herself and find ways to channel that energy appropriately. She started doing gymnastics recently!
Their 18-month-old brother eventually gained independence and started speaking! That was a huge moment for him.
In training, a Voices for Children staff member said something that stuck with me; CASAs are often the only people that aren’t paid to be in the children’s lives while they’re in foster care. It was such a powerful statement. These children need someone in their corner. Knowing that is what inspires me to continue serving as a CASA. It is one of the hardest things, and one of the most rewarding things, I have ever done.
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Rosie is a former foster youth whose life was transformed by her CASA, Dawna. Her childhood was marred by drug addiction, violence, and neglect, tearing her family apart and leaving Rosie with no one to depend on. Until Dawna came into her life. As Rosie put it, “Dawna was someone that, when she said something, she did it. If she said that she would be there, she was going to be there. And that became huge for me, because no one had been that in my life. That, I think, was the best gift.” Despite all the odds, Rosie is now pursuing her college degree and working at a residential, educational facility helping other foster youth.
More than 9,000 children spend time in San Diego and Riverside County foster care systems each year. They are innocent victims who have been taken away from their homes through no fault of their own, but due to parental maltreatment. Once removed, the children are under the Court's jurisdiction until a judge determines the home is safe for return. If reunification cannot occur, the child continues to live in foster care until adoption or guardianship can be arranged. Sadly, many children are never adopted and spend their childhoods in foster care.
Voices for Children’s 1,600 CASA volunteers come from every ethnicity, background, income level, age, and profession. They pass several levels of screenings and interviews and pass our rigorous training program of 35+ hours. Being a CASA is an extraordinary responsibility, not something suited to everyone. And those who do qualify are the best; one child described them as “big brothers with superpowers.”
Our volunteers perform miracles, often changing lives and bringing joy to their case children, yet also face fear and mistrust from children who have been betrayed by adults. The stakes are very high for these children, yet studies show that CASA volunteers can make a significant difference in the lives of their children.