Child Advocates of Silicon Valley

Anai's Speech at Wonderful Witchy Women

Friday, Nov 9, 2018

I want to tell you about “My American Eyes”– my Court Appointed Special Advocates/ my CASAs, the women who helped me see that there is a big world out there that I CAN participate in.

My family is from Mexico.  Life was very difficult for them.  My mother brought me to the United States to try to find a better life.  Unfortunately, things did not work out for her.

My mother came to the United States without speaking any English.  She struggled.  When I was five years old I entered the foster care system. I lived in three different foster homes while moving back and forth to my mother’s care as she tried to make things work in her new country. 

My mother tried to take care of me, yet she was very young and struggled with addictions.  When I was in first grade, my mother moved back to Mexica, leaving me behind.

When I was 6, I met Dawn, my first CASA.   She is the first person who really opened my eyes.  She took me to parks, museums, movies and plays - so many new experiences.  She showed me a different world.

When I was 11 Dawn moved out of the area.  I was really sad to see her leave.  However, the CASA program matched me with a new CASA, Susan – Susan is still part of my life.  She is here today.

Compared to many children in foster care, I am really fortunate.  Not only did I have wonderful CASAs, I had a committed foster father.  Although my mother was not able to take care of me, one of her boyfriends, José, stepped in to fill a void.  He eventually became my legal guardian.  He is my REAL dad.

Yet, despite having a consistent person to live with, life was still a challenge.  José works really hard and really cares, however, he does not have much money and he has little experience outside our immediate culture.  José is supportive of me and my education, yet he did not know how to navigate the foster care system.  So, I was and am loved by family, yet without my CASAs, my life would be very different.

There are so many experiences and activities people take for granted.  As a young girl from a different culture, having a CASA as a female role model has been so important.  Little things like how to shop for appropriate clothing, how to do grocery shopping, how to set up a bank account, how to set up a budget for finances – all of these things are usually taught by a parent, yet my father did not know how to help me. 

Susan taught me how to do little things like write a thank you note, calculate and leave a tip at a restaurant – eat properly in a restaurant, someplace like this.  Having these small lessons opens doors and helps make a positive impression as I move forward in life.

Susan helped me advocate for myself.  She taught me how to be assertive, not aggressive.  She showed me possibilities; we visited Google, YouTube, and eBay.  I saw that those types of careers and that type of life existed, and that I could be a part of it.  We visited colleges - I became excited about my future education.

Susan helped me connect with my family in Mexico.  I had not seen my biological father since I moved to the United States.  I had not seen my mother since she returned to Mexico.  Susan understands the importance of family.  She helped research the addresses of my family.  She and my social worker helped me visit my mother in Mexico.  That may sound like a small thing, yet I can tell you staying connected to your roots, despite what may have happened in the past, is really important!  We now exchange letters, pictures and texts.  Susan also helped my father understand that I do not want to leave him, that he should not feel threatened by my contacting my biological parents.  Again, that sounds like such a small thing, but it was HUGE.

Susan opened my eyes to new worlds and possibilities.  In fact, I feel that I am luckier than many of my neighbors who were not in foster care.  Without Susan, Dawn and Child Advocates, I would not know my possibilities.

I am so grateful for the experiences provided by Susan and by the Child Advocates agency.  Child Advocates makes sure children like me have an opportunity for “normal” kid things.  They also help us experience amazing things – like a private back stage tour and sound check with Earth, Wind and Fire (although I have to admit, I didn’t know who the band was, but my CASA Susan was so excited to meet them.)  Earth, Wind and Fire was the very first concert she attended as a teen.  It was great to share that reliving of the past with her – something that many children and teens take for granted with their own parents.

Knowing how to make your way around the world is really important.  If you come from an environment where no one knows how to navigate things, it is really difficult to make your way to becoming an independent adult.  That is the greatest gift CASA gave to me.  Susan supported me from middle school through high school.  She encouraged me to try out for after school activities and to get involved in my community.  I participate in theater – something that my CASA Dawn got me interested in when I was six.   I will be staring in a four woman play in December!

I am very proud to state that I graduated on time this past June – something many foster children do not achieve.  With Susan’s encouragement, I attended an advanced math class this past summer; I completed my general education math requirements for college before my official college classes even started.  Today I attend college and work. 

As I look forward, I have possibilities my mother never had.  I have possibilities that my father cannot fully appreciate.  I may become a politician or attorney to help those who are less fortunate.  I may become a mathematician, because I really like math!  These possibilities are available due to the consistent support of Dawn, Susan and the CASA community.

I know that statements can sometimes sound trite.  However, I can tell you from a very deep and personal place that having a CASA makes a huge difference for a foster child.  Having that positive person by my side, that cheerleader, that sounding board, that occasional needed hug is what every child needs to become a healthy, productive person.

I am so grateful for “My American Eyes”, for inspiring me to dream and helping me achieve my dreams.

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