Monday, Dec 3, 2018
Stories From the Work: Cassandra and Angela
When Cassandra first met Angela, Angela was 8 years old. Angela, along with three of her siblings were removed from their home due to sexual abuse by their father. Angela’s mother often blamed her for the breakup of their family. Being young and impressionable, Angela internalized the messages her mother told her and blamed herself for the breakup of their family. Angela was very close to her father which made her feel guilty and blame herself even more. With little to no support at home and the pain of physical and emotional abuse, Angela suffered from low self-esteem, low self-worth, and had a lot of trust issues. Angela thought she was worthless, couldn’t do anything right, and that she was ugly. A sentiment that her family constantly reinforced by telling her, “you don’t look like us, how do we know you are ours?” Angela also struggled in school due to her negative self-image, thinking to herself, “I’m stupid, so why even try.”
But that’s not what Cassandra thought. As Angela’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Cassandra saw a bright child who needed positive reinforcement to break the cycle of negativity that plagued her life.
“I wanted to instill trust by being reliable, showing up on time, being consistent and trustworthy, letting Angela know that not everyone treats children that way,” Cassandra said. Cassandra coached Angela to not immediately expect the worst in people, but to instead give them a chance.
Cassandra took Angela to the playground to let her play and experience what it’s like to simply be a child. But Cassandra also made sure to set boundaries in a positive and non-threatening way, explaining to Angela why things had to be done in a certain fashion.
Cassandra worked to build up Angela’s self-esteem through positive reinforcement, often telling her, “yes, you are smart. Yes, you can do it,” something that most adults in Angela’s life failed to do. “I wanted to show her that there are adults that she can trust. Ones that want to listen to her and value her,” Cassandra explained.
To help Angela academically, Cassandra worked to get an Individual Education Development (IED) plan put together to help improve her reading skills. But one of the most important things she did was be a consistent, reliable adult presence in Cassandra’s life. Cassandra made sure to meet Angela at the exact dates and times that they planned, and kept her word about things they had agreed they would do together. This was an act Angela had seldom experienced in her life.
Through their time together Angela began to blossom into a confident, happy, well-adjusted child. When Angela and her siblings were reunited with their mother, Angela was in a much better place. She still calls Cassandra to check-in and report to her on how she’s doing. The two of them still meet, sometimes as often as twice a month.
A lasting impact such as this starts with by attending an info session where you can learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer. RSVP here: https://bemyadvocate.org/menus/info-sessions.html