Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Sherry is the volunteer assigned to 12-year-old Max, a foster child who was not only removed from his parents’ custody but has recently changed foster home placements and will soon be attending a new school. CASA volunteers like Sherry report spending an average of 10 to 15 hours per month engaged with their case. This includes spending time with the child, communicating with professionals involved in the case, and writing a court report that the judge will read and use to make decisions impacting the child’s future. In this article, we hope to clarify what these hours might look like by sharing CASA Sherry’s schedule and notes from January. Please note that all names in the following account have been changed in order to maintain confidentiality.
Wednesday, January 1 (30 minutes)
Called Max to wish him a Happy New Year. Max shared what he did for the holidays and how excited he is that he can play video games with the other children at his new placement. He has been enjoying his winter break, but seems hesitant about starting at a new school next week.
Thursday, January 2 (20 minutes)
Received the CASA Courier, a monthly e-newsletter from Voices for Children for CASAs. Looked over upcoming events and resources, and clicked the available link to submit my volunteer hours from December. I made note of the upcoming “Educational Needs of Foster Youth” training for CASAs and added it to my calendar.
Saturday, January 4 (15 minutes)
Since Max’s parents aren’t around to make educational decisions for him, the Court appointed me to be in control of educational decisions. I logged into Max’s online school portal to check the upcoming semester’s class schedule. Noted which teachers he has and brainstormed what supplies he’ll need.
Sunday, January 5 (15 minutes)
Tomorrow is Max’s first day back to school, so I called him to go over his class schedule. Went through a school supplies checklist with him to ensure he’s packed his backpack accordingly. To ease his mind about the new term, I offered him words of encouragement before we ended our call. I told him that I believed in him and that I would be here to support him as he adjusts to his new school.
Thursday, January 9 (1 hour)
While Max was at school, I met with his new foster parent to discuss his transition into their home. They said Max seems to be getting along fine at home, but for the past few days, he’s been exhibiting slight passive-aggression toward his new foster parents. Perhaps his attending a new school has something to do with this change in behavior. Later in the day, I spent a few minutes drafting an email to set up a meeting with Max’s school counselor.
Friday, January 10 (1 hour)
After work, I met with Max’s academic counselor. Together, we discovered that his placement into an accelerated math class was an accident, which has been taking a toll on his willingness to attend school. We agreed to enroll him in a regular math class during the same period to better suit his academic level.
Saturday, January 11 (30 minutes)
I phoned Max’s foster mother to update her on the class change. I also spoke to Max about the change. He was thankful and shared that he felt like he could not understand any of the lessons. Together, we discussed our plans for our in-person meeting the following week.
Wednesday, January 15 (30 minutes)
CASAs are required to call or email their Advocacy Supervisor at least once a month with updates. After work on Wednesday, I drafted an email to my advocacy supervisor, Martha, with updates on Max’s case. I included holiday photos of Max that his foster parent had sent me. I asked Martha to attach them to my next report.
Saturday, January 18 (3 hours)
On Saturday, I picked up Max for my monthly in-person meeting with him. We enjoyed a picnic together at Balboa Park. I brought him his favorite: carne asada fries from a nearby taco shop. After, we treated ourselves with ice cream cones. Thanks to Voices for Children’s partnerships with local museums, we enjoyed free admission to some of the museums in Balboa Park, including Max’s favorite—the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Max seems to be adjusting better now that he’s been transferred to more appropriate classes.
Tuesday, January 21–Friday, January 24 (2 hours total)
From Tuesday through Friday, I spent thirty minutes each day after dinner to work on a court report for Max’s court hearing in late February. In the report, I make sure to include information about the history of Max’s case, his current situation, our recent outings, and his needs. I made sure to mark on my calendar that I need to have the report submitted 15 business days before the actual hearing.
Saturday, January 25 (30 minutes)
With my court report finished, I spoke with Max over the phone to discuss the upcoming hearing and ask how he is feeling. He shared that he is a little nervous to have to go back to the courtroom but that he is glad that I will be with him!
Wednesday, January 29 (15 minutes)
On my lunch break, I phoned my advocacy supervisor to discuss the court report and ask for her suggestions. She offered me some advice and let me know what other resources are available for Max, including an after-school beginner coding program he might be interested in.
Friday, January 31 (30 minutes)
After work, I decided to check in on Max’s grades by logging into his school portal. He has a few missing assignments but seems to be doing fairly well in most of his courses, including his new math class.
Begin Your CASA Journey
While it’s important to remember that every CASA’s case, routine, and decisions look different, the vision of all CASAs is the same: to provide needed advocacy for children in foster care and to be a consistent support for them. Every foster child is unique and will require tailored solutions, but with only a few hours a month, any adult can provide care and stability to a child in need.
You, too, can advocate for a local foster child like Max, and Voices for Children will provide you with all of the tools and resources you need. Begin your CASA journey today by signing up for an upcoming information session with Voices for Children.