Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019
CASAs who have worked with infants and young children know it is a special and unique form of volunteering. Working with an infant or toddler can mean getting to know their parent as they navigate the system that is overseeing their child’s welfare. That was the case for Linda, who was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to Jared, age 5 and Michael, age 2. Both boys, along with their four siblings had recently been reunified with their mother after she had lost custody of them for 2 ½ years due to neglect and drug abuse. She has been sober for one year now and has welcomed having a CASA to help ease the transition of caring for six children again.
Linda decided she wanted to work with younger children after she learned that a growing number of children in the CASA program are between the ages of 0 to 5 years old. Last year, 24% of the children Child Advocates served with a CASA were under the age of 5. This year, 30% or 300 of the 1,000 children the agency plans to serve, will be under the age of 5.
“During training I saw all the stats and the need to serve younger kids as well as siblings so these are the areas where I wanted to help,” Linda explains. Wanting to make an impact on the community around her, Linda, a godmother and former Sunday School teacher, thought the best way was to be advocate CASA for children. “It came very natural to me. I’ve always loved kids and working with kids,” Linda says.
“I was nervous to meet the kids for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we had a very good first meeting,” Linda recalls. It was December, the kids were out of school, and the social worker brought a bunch of toys to share with the kids. “The kids were very welcoming, excited, and accepting. They even sat on my lap and showed me their toys.”
Linda particularly enjoys taking the brothers to the library and playground. “They have a lot of energy,” Linda jokes. “Jared is at that age where he can be a little calmer but Michael wants to run around everywhere,” she says. “I tried to take them to the movies and that didn’t work out so well, Jared fell asleep and Michael just wanted to get up and run around.” They also enjoyed going out to eat and Linda is planning to take Jared to the arcade for the first time, something she says he’s very excited about.
"As beneficial as we are as a CASA to the kids, they give right back. Jared and Michael have had to deal with a lot from an early age, and are quite resilient. All they really require is attention and engagement. While there are still challenges ahead for both boys, I leave our visits with a little reminder to always be present; your time is the most important thing you can give.”
Asked if anything surprised her about being a CASA, Linda said she was pleasantly surprised to learn how many resources are available to struggling families and children in Santa Clara County. “The courts really want to help families overcome their challenges so everyone can thrive.”
For those who are on the fence about becoming a CASA, Linda says, “Do it. You’re going to be learning the entire time. Child Advocates offers so many resources to be successful.”
To learn how you can make a similar impact in a foster youth’s life, start by attending an info session. Sign up here:www.BeMyAdvocate.org/info