Our volunteers are truly the heart of Boston CASA. The time, care, and attention they put towards our kids is invaluable and transforms lives.
Gail completed our Fall 2016 training and is currently on a case with sisters, ages 9 and 10, who are living in foster care. Read about her experience as a CASA below…
1) Why did you decide to become a CASA?
I recently retired from a rewarding career as an Assistant Commissioner in a large State Agency serving individuals with disabilities. While my work focused on systems change on a Statewide level, I have always been interested in the difference that one individual can make in the life of another person. I was particularly moved by the challenges that, through no fault of their own, many children face in their lives. Supporting the healthy development of all children is no easy task and this is especially true of children in the child welfare system. And so, with a desire to volunteer in a significant one on one experience, and a love for children, becoming a CASA volunteer seemed like a wonderful opportunity.
2) What does being a CASA mean to you?
Being a CASA has been one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever loved. It is challenging, frustrating, and humbling. It is also incredibly rewarding. I serve as the CASA for two delightful and sweet sisters. Despite facing the trauma of being separated from their biological mother, living in a number of foster care situations, and facing on-going uncertainty about their future, they have remained open, loving and not the least bit cynical. There are many individuals in their lives, including but not limited to attorneys and case workers, all of whom have an interest in their welfare. My role, however, offers me the ability to focus solely on them and what is in their best interest. This has enabled me to get to know them, visit with them regularly, and develop a trusting and caring relationship. Based on my growing knowledge of their wants and needs, I am able to provide a voice for them in a system that, despite the best effort of individuals, can be complex and difficult to navigate.
3) What have you learned from your experience as a CASA?
Having worked in a State agency for many years, I thought that I was very familiar with the challenges of working with a variety of stakeholders towards a set of stated goals. Nevertheless, I have been struck by how difficult it can sometimes be to accomplish even one small task. I am an individual who likes to get things done, and so I have had to learn to be patient with how slowly the wheels can turn. My tendency is to want to do things myself, but I have learned to try to let the system work as it should. In many ways my role involves knowing who to communicate with to get some seemingly small outcome, maintaining patience while awaiting a response to a particular concern, following up with multiple parties and getting information to the right people. However, in the face of these challenges, I have also learned that in spite of a very complex system, there are many dedicated professionals committed to the welfare of the children they support. This is especially true of the CASA staff and supervisors who are always available and freely offer their knowledge and experience whenever needed.
4) Describe a memorable moment from working on your CASA case.
The most memorable moment for me has been getting full funding for both girls to attend day camp for the entire summer. With the end of the school year fast approaching, it became clear that no one was focusing on what the girls would do for the summer months. Everyone acknowledged that it was important for them to have a fun summer. In addition, both foster parents work during the day and so it was essential that we find a summer camp for the girls. Given the fact that funds and/or vouchers were extremely limited, the prospects of getting them into a camp were not very good. After much research into camps, showing up for face to face conversations with different camp staff, I connected with a staff person from the YMCA of Greater Boston and was able to secure camperships for the full summer for both girls. Without a doubt, the evening that I was able to tell the girls about the camp and the activities and fun that awaited them, was a real highlight of my time with them.
***Boston CASA advocates are appointed by juvenile court judges to be the eyes and ears of the court in complicated foster care cases. CASAs represent the “best interest” of the children they work with and are the only party involved in the case that does so. CASA volunteers work to be a unifying force on behalf of children – gathering information, communicating with all parties, and ensuring that children in foster care, who have often been exposed to trauma, abuse, and neglect, have a caring adult speaking up for them and making sure they are getting the care they need and deserve.