Wednesday, Jan 30, 2019
CJ is the kind of CASA with lots of energy and passion. From the moment I met her I knew she was going to be a reliable, strong, and caring volunteer. As soon as she was done with training she was ready to take not one, but two cases. One of the cases was with a little girl. This girl was starving for food and starving for attention. CJ became a big part of this girl's life. This little girl wasn't always easy and had some behavioral problems in school and in her foster home but CJ always approached her with kindness and respect. The fact that CJ showed respect for this little girl, went a long way and her relationship with CJ blossomed. She would open up and tell CJ things that she didn't disclose to others. Like the fact that she had never had a birthday party. CJ was not about to let that be the end of that story. She organized a surprise birthday party for this girl complete with balloons, presents, and a unicorn cake. Tears were shed through happy smiles and this little girl had a birthday she would never forget. While so many other adults had left this girl's life, CJ stuck around for the full year of the case, becoming the constant beacon of hope and love that this girl needed. Eventually this little girl was adopted into a new home that would love and care for her, but she will always remember the special relationship she had with her CASA. In fact, they still stay in touch and see each other often!
Judy and Willie - I don't think there has ever been a time when I haven't seen Judy smiling and her husband Willie supportively standing beside her. They had just come off their first case when I asked them to take on an especially difficult case. The case had been in the news and the children were severely traumatized. I knew Judy's warmth and Willie's child-at-heart demeanor would be just what these kids needed. The case turned out to be much harder than we originally imagined. The emotional abuse and psychological damage the kids had endured was just beginning to surface and it was soon realized that they were not safe to live together. Now Judy and Willie were assigned to three children in different homes. They didn't miss a beat. Judy and Willie continued to consistently meet with the three kids and they always have such a fun time. The kids have gone fishing, tossed the football around with Willie, been to the aquarium multiple times, scored at the arcade, and many more special things. Judy and Willie always make sure the kids know they are special and deserve to be cared for. Over the course of the year and half they have been on the case so far, Judy and Willie have become trusted team members. Judy is well known by all the kids' schools as she is very involved in their education plans. Judy and Willie have also been asked to weigh in on the potential adoptive homes for the kids. No one knows these kids better than Judy and Willie. They handled tantrums with love and patience, confronted being bitten with kind words, and have faced every challenge with a smile. The kids know they can trust Willie and Judy. One of the kids says they are his 'best friends'. I could not ask for better volunteers.
By Lexie Rolfe and Wendy Morgan
The Urban dictionary defines Chrysalis as the process of developing; the journey between the cocoon state of a caterpillar through to the transformation of a beautiful butterfly. Another definition simple states a preparatory or transitional state. Wendy and I have been working with various CASA cases for almost 5 years and have enjoyed the work we have been involved in. Any help we can give a child during their many transitional states is time well spent. A few years ago we were asked to team up on an exceptionally large case and we found that we worked well together and enjoyed taking on these often challenging cases. We had found our Niche in the CASA world. When our last case ended and we were in reviewing files another unique opportunity was presented to us. We were introduced to the Chrysalis program, which neither of us was familiar with. The Chrysalis Mission statement reads: To make a difference daily by providing support and opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live, work, and participate more fully in the community.
Chrysalis provides homes for youth whose parents can no longer handle them in their homes for various reasons and have turned them over to the state or they have been taken from the home and turned over to the state. They provide counseling and therapies for them along with all their basic needs.
We learned that currently DCSF had about 10 children living in Chrysalis homes in Washington County and the attorneys were hoping for CASA’s to help with these children. As we read over the files of these children we were intrigued by this opportunity and decided to give it a try. We liked the mission of the Chrysalis home, trying to help these youth transform into beautiful butterflies and thought it would be a special experience to be a part of that. We began the process of contacting the various homes as all the children lived in different homes. It was rather challenging working with so many different people setting appointments, we were used to having one set of foster parents to set appointments with. We hadn’t thought about the amount of team meetings or court dates this would involve either. For a time it seemed quite overwhelming. But the attorneys were so appreciative of every visit we were able to make and any support we were able to give them that it made the frustrations seem minor. We enjoy interacting with the children and being able to help them in even the smallest way. Over the past year we have seen a child struggle with shyness become more confident and even try out for American Idol. We have seen students with failing grades turn themselves around and then tutor other students. We have seen extreme anxiety come under control so the student can march with her graduating class. It’s such a rewarding day when you see their goals met and their case closed. Their journey may not be complete, but they truly transform into beautiful butterflies.
Kiele: Serving as a CASA for one of our kids can be amazing, fulfilling, but also at times heartbreaking. Sometimes it can be hard to deal with an imperfect system. But these kids need someone who is in it for the long-haul, in spite of changing placements, schools, caseworkers, or attorney's. When I think about dedicated advocates, I think of Kiele Sant, one of the best CASAs I have worked with and who has made a huge difference in the life of a 16 year old. Kiele took the case on midway through 2013 when the child was abandoned at age 11. Now, almost four a half years later, she is still so dedicated to this wonderful child. This child has been through so much and through so many changes. Kiele has been the only constant in the child's life. I'm amazed at her dedication. She consistently visits and stays in touch with the child she represents, does an amazing job of keeping me informed of how things are going as well as questions and concerns that the child has. She has used one of her talents to really bond with the child. But what impresses me the most about Kiele, is how much she really cares for this child. It is apparent in the emails she sends me every month, in the consistent contact she has with the child, and because the child is comfortable enough to say things to Kiele that she doesn't talk to anyone else about. I went on a home visit several months back to visit the child and one thing I noted was how important the relationship myclient had with her CASA was, how that relationship was a point of stability in a child's life who has been through so much change and disappointment. I appreciate all the Kiele does for this wonderful kid and how much good comes from dedicated CASAs like Kiele, who take the time to develop a meaningful relationship with their clients by being consistent, taking time, and learning about what interest the client and meeting them on their turf. Thanks Kiele! Michael Forsberg, Guardian ad Litem attorney.
Sean: I was born in San Francisco, California in1973. I grew up in a very unstable, "rocky" home. I eventually was placed in foster care and spent time in 4 foster homes. In 1987, I moved to Austin, Texas and attended high school there. With hard work and perseverance, I graduated in 1991 as Valedictorian and was selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy that same year. In 1995, I graduated from the Academy with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and received my wings in 1997. I have been stationed at 6 locations, including Canada, and acquired over 4,000 accident-free flight hours.
I participated in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program from 2006-2012. I knew about CASA and joined when I moved to Utah in 2014 as another way to mentor and provide guidance to young people. I also felt a calling to the CASA program since I was a foster boy myself. I have found it to be quite challenging, but even more rewarding ... especially when I see a youth make positive strides.
A wise person once said "it take a village to raise a child." I proudly stand as a villager who strives to mold our future leaders to overcome obstacles and to succeed in life.
Sandy: I heard about CASA from someone at work when I was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community. When I told my sister what I was doing, she joined me in the training in February of 2013. It’s been an awesome experience to share with my sister especially considering our very busy schedules with family, work, etc. We were sworn in March of 2013. On the day we were sworn in, my sister found out she had breast cancer. She waited until after the ceremony to share her news and told me in front of the courthouse. It was a bittersweet moment—we were just starting two journeys. One as CASAs and another in her journey to beat cancer. Although this would give her every excuse to bow out of the CASA responsibilities, we took an assignment together shortly after her surgery. Our first assignment was a family of five siblings ranging in age from 10 to 17. That case closed after about six months and we took our next case in October. We were assigned two brothers (currently age 14 and 16) who live in different foster homes. It has been a long and difficult case during such critical times in their lives. We often wonder whether we are making an impact. But we have to believe that each interaction can be a positive influence in their lives and hope for a better future. Unfortunately we don’t live in that perfect world and not all children grow up in a loving, safe environment. That is where the CASA program can make the difference. That is why I chose to join the CASA program. As CASAs we may not be able to change the world, but perhaps we can change a life.
Just wanted you to know if you ever get bogged down in the job as CASA super hero this will make you know you are just that...a super hero. My CASA client asked me today what CASA meant. I told her Court Appointed Special Advocate and she shook her head and said that isn't what it means. I said, "What do you think it means?" She said, "CASA means Court Appointed Super Awesomeness". It made my heart melt and wanted you to know that you are the super awesomeness to make it all happen.