Saturday, February 4, 2017

Why do I want to be a CASA Volunteer? Allow Garth Brooks to Explain

I am excited to announce that I am in the process of training to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) through Fox Cities CASA.

According to their mission statement, “CASA of the Fox Cities, Inc. advocates for abused and neglected children in our local courts, with community volunteers, to achieve placement in safe and permanent homes.CASA is a nationwide organization which was instituted in 1977 at the suggestion of a Seattle juvenile court judge who was concerned about making crucial decisions with insufficient information. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to represent the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes. CASA volunteers visit the children on a weekly basis to build trusting relationships and assess their situations for court reports, whether in foster care, kinship care, or reunified at home.

Sadly, there are many children in our community struggling to stay afloat due to abuse and neglect at home. Their lives and futures are at stake as they brave the stormy seas. Child Protective Services forms the ship to transport the children to safe shores through social workers, foster parents, Guardians ad Liteum (GAL), and the court system. But there are holes in the ship, as evidenced by the fact that approximately eighty percent of prison inmates have spent time in foster care. Social workers are bogged with huge caseloads, GAL's are too busy for much interaction with children, foster parents have trouble forming connections with children who can be resentful of their role, and the court system often favors parents rights over the best interests of children. CASA works to fill these holes. Advocates use their hearts to form a consistent relationship while the child is often shuffled around between homes, their minds to monitor the child's situation to report to the courts, and their voices to advocate in court for the best interests of the child.

I am currently in the middle of a couple months of training, and look forward to learning more about the complexities of advocating for abused and neglected children. At our introductory training session we were asked to name a song that describes us. One woman choose Garth Brooks’s “The Dance,” and it made me realize that there are many Garth Brooks songs that I can use to explain to my family and friends why I am interested in becoming a CASA volunteer.

Here are some of the FAQ’s I’ve been hearing over the past couple weeks as explained by Garth Brooks (lyrics in italics). Get ready for a flashback to the 90's!

How did you hear about it?

Over the past few months, my long-time interest in adoption and foster care has grown, yet for a myriad of reasons, we can’t pursue adoption or fostering at this time. I follow AdoptUSKids on Facebook, who recently shared a Huffpost article on 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Foster Care, including CASA. CASA seemed like the perfect fit to pursue my dream of helping children within the demands of my busy life.

A dream is like a river, ever changing as it goes, and the dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it flows.

Why do you want to do that?

I have a loving marriage, healthy children, stable career, strong relationship with the Lord, and supportive community of friends and family. But rather than wanting to settle into this beautiful blessing, I feel a strong desire to extend this love to all of God's children. I had a feeling that ignoring the plight of children in our community would be standing outside the fire. 

There’s this love that is burning deep in my soul, constantly yearning to get out of control, wanting to fly higher and higher. I can’t abide standing outside the fire.

Didn’t you just say you were going to try to slow things down in the New Year?

I did, but remember I also knew that “Project Free 2017” wasn’t realistic, and I promised to follow the Lord where He leads.  CASA requires approximately 2.5 hours per week (approximately one-hour child visits, report writing, and potential court appearances). I will be happy to give that time for the possibility of a brighter future for a child.

Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

Won’t it be sad and hard?

I’m sure it will be heartbreaking to get involved with victimized children, and I’m sure I will shed painful tears over their tragedies. I also know that trauma can bring out intense emotions in children which can be difficult to manage. I know better than to expect neat outcomes to every difficult situation. Yet CASA volunteer's can bring hope to desperate circumstances by helping the child learn to trust again and ensuring that they end up in permanent, loving homes.

I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.

How are you going to keep from getting depressed?

While I can do hard things, I’m sure I will have to be intentional about not becoming consumed in sorrow. Strict confidentiality will prohibit me from talking through cases with my family and friends, but they can help by just being there to remind me of the lighter side of life.

If you need to pour your heart out and try to rectify some situation that you're facing contact your American Honky-Tonk Bar Association! (I’ve got a good one in mind!)

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