For youth in foster care, the holidays are often not “the most wonderful time of the year.” That was the case for Brooklyn*, a teen living in her second group home whose family had cut off contact. She was experiencing behavioral issues and was on the brink of expulsion in late 2019 when she was matched Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, Laura.
CASA Laura was determined to make the holiday season a little brighter for Brooklyn. At Thanksgiving, she brought baking supplies to Brooklyn’s group home so she and the other girls could make and enjoy homemade pies. When Brooklyn got a solo in her holiday choir show, CASA Laura was there to give her a standing ovation. CASA Laura also made sure to take Brooklyn on an outing to see Christmas lights.
CASA Laura was instrumental in making sure Brooklyn stayed in school. Amid all the turmoil in her life, Brooklyn had missed a lot of school and was about to be expelled. At an emergency Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, CASA Laura reminded school officials that the absences were excused and, with recent staff changes at school, Brooklyn was doing her best to stay afloat. After hearing from CASA Laura, the school dropped the issue.
Over the last three years, CASA Laura has become the most consistent presence in Brooklyn’s life and has made many positive impacts. However, CASA Laura says the pleasure is all hers.
“I have loved being a part of her growth and watching her go from a young 13-year-old to a sweet 17-year-old. She has grown, learned, and matured so much, and it’s been an honor to be a part of that,” CASA Laura shared. “We’ve gone through hard times and silly, fun times and everything in between. I tell her often how much I admire her strength, her honesty, and her determination.”
CASA Laura and Brooklyn’s relationship is a shining example of what Voices for Children’s CASA program is all about.
Volunteer: Laura K.
Occupation: Retired teacher and nurse
County: San Diego:
Became a CASA: 2019
Advice to new CASAs: Just be there. Take leads and cues as you get to know your youth. Don’t push. Have fun! The things I did with my youth, in the beginning, were art and craft projects and games. Conversation was very possible but didn’t seem forced and awkward. It helped break the ice for many conversations in the early days of getting acquainted. Conversations now are typically much easier, and the things we do are much more centered around the things she enjoys. Above all else, BE THERE!
Favorite quote: “Reach for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll end up among the stars!”
You, too, can make a difference in the life of youth in foster care. Learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer.
*Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality