How long have you been volunteering as a CASA advocate?
I have been a CASA volunteer for about 5 years, but I have been affiliated with the CASA program in Henderson County since it started in 2007. I served on the Board of Directors as board president. Then I later decided I wanted to be more involved in advocating for the child.
What is your role there?
As a CASA advocate, I am the fact finder. I usually work on one case at a time and spend roughly eight hours a month with a child. I interview teachers, social workers, and everyone else who is part of the child’s life; I have a conversation with them to better understand the needs of the child such as the child’s history and if there are any problems we need to address. Afterward, I write a monthly report about the child that is given to the court, which specifies what I have learned about the child and my recommendations for them. The judge will read my report and later get in touch with me to follow up. The CASA advocate is the constant in the child’s life. Our job is to place them in a permanent home as quickly as possible.
You once advocated for a child who was the victim of abuse. What this experience like?
Most of our child abuse cases are drug-related. And when a child is exposed to drugs, they often have delayed educational motor skills. The child was 4 when I got the case, and she was one of my hardest cases. But once we assessed her needs, we were able to give her the right resources to help. She is 8 now, and you would have never known that she had a speech impediment.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working at CASA?
The most reward thing is when you get to follow up and see how the child is doing. After finding permanent homes and families for the children, you see them thrive and be loved. It is knowing that you made a difference.
What are some of the challenges you face at CASA?
Getting the right resources because we are so busy. There are just not enough CASA volunteers, and the case count has gone up since we are staying at home during the pandemic. Sometimes the child’s safe haven is school. Most of child abuse reports come from teachers in our school system. But if our children are not going to school, then who is noticing?
How has partnering with United Way of West TN benefited CASA and its clients?
It is the visibility of knowing that we are part of something bigger. UW is a big organization and their support is vital to our program. They have helped us spread the word about our program. For years, people did not know what CASA was. This relationship has meant a lot to CASA.
To learn more about Henderson County CASA and how you can volunteer as a CASA advocate, click here.