Child Advocates of Silicon Valley

Stories from the Work: From One Teen-Mom to Another

Monday, Oct 2, 2017

Susan Maciel-Finley has always been a self-described caregiver by nature so after she retired as a Business Operations Manager from a Telecommunications company, she knew she wanted to volunteer to help others. After learning about Child Advocates’ Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program from a friend, she knew she’d found her calling.

Susan had been a teen mom but had help from a strong family support network, one she knew many young women in foster care lack. After completing training, Susan’s learned about Jena, a single 17-year-old mother in need of a CASA.

“I couldn’t see myself being idle. I knew I wanted to get involved and give back,” Susan explains.

Jena was working hard but struggling. After Jena’s parents abandoned her, she worked to find safe, affordable housing. As her CASA, Susan offered her friendship, guidance, and support as Jena strove to be a good parent while juggling school and work.

Jena is very motivated. She wants a better life for herself and her daughter. I’m here to help her through her journey,” Susan says, adding, “just seeing these teens make positive choices and go down a positive path even if it’s in a small way, I get my own satisfaction with that because it’s good to see them succeed.”

“I have a lot of adults in my life, but Susan is different,” Jena said. “We easily connected; Susan provided instant comfort. Susan really cares and wants to help.”

After being a CASA to seven children, Susan also accepted the challenge to become a Mentor and now oversees eight CASA volunteers in addition to being a CASA to Jena. And Jena?

She finished her high school requirements early, won two scholarships, and began attending community college this past January.

I’m so proud of her considering the hardships she’s had to endure and seeing her turn her life around,” says Susan. “Her life is going in a positive direction.”

Reflecting on her volunteer work as a CASA, Susan says “It’s been great. I really enjoy it. I tell anyone thinking about volunteering that being a CASA is a great way to utilize your nurturing skills outside of your immediate family. I am so fulfilled by doing this work.

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