CASA Reward: Seeing a Child Reach Their Fullest Potential

Jacky is one of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children’s most tenured advocates – fighting for children’s rights for over eight years. She loves being a CASA. She loves that being a CASA allows her to use her knowledge as a school guidance counselor, but it also teaches her new skills. She loves when she sees the positive outcomes in her cases, and most of all she loves being a CASA because she loves the children.

Optimized-Fotolia_92496429_Subscription_Monthly_MA school guidance counselor when she started at CASA, Jacky’s experience was already grounded in guiding and assessing the needs of children. Now retired, she is very happy that she can still put her knowledge and practices to good use. Her knowledge of the education system has been invaluable when advocating for the educational needs of her children. On several occasions, Jacky’s knowledge of the education system and the Individual Education Plan (IEP) has helped foster parents. Jacky not only knows enough to ask for an IEP but also has the knowledge to contribute to the plan itself – which is crucial to a child who has not had a consistent caretaker.

Naturally welcoming, Jacky is friendly and communicates easily. Even so, she knows it can be awkward for children of any age to converse with an adult they do not know very well. Like a modern-day Mary Poppins (she has the British accent, too!), she uses conversational apps and games to get the children active and interested. Art books with open narratives are very useful. Tapping into her experience, Jacky says, “Having the children draw pictures and then express a narrative to go along with the picture is a really good way to gauge what and who is important to a child as well as the emotions attached to what is important.”

What she has learned by being a CASA is almost as interesting to her as the children she serves.  She credits CASA staff and the child welfare caseworkers for helping her work her way through the system and the paperwork. The family court system’s complexity decision making truly intrigues her. The computer work is the most challenging to her but she says the CASA staff makes themselves readily available to help.

What surprises Jacky the most is how fluid people’s lives are, how one variable sends a person’s life in a completely different direction. She is amazed at how good and bad decisions, and the reasons behind those decisions, can instantly change the direction of a child’s life. One case in particular that weighs heavy on her mind is a pair of siblings she advocated for – a toddler and an infant. They each lived with separate foster parents. The two foster homes were in the same town, just a few streets from each other. She visited both homes, but visitation between the two siblings was not granted, even though she advocated for it. So, she wonders, “Will these two siblings grow up blocks away from each other, possibly going to the same school, and not even know they are related?”

After her many years advocating, Jacky is taking a hiatus. Her most recent case closed and she is not going to take on another one right now, instead focusing on her daughter who just qualified for the Special Olympics’ Swim team. Even though she has temporarily stepped back from her CASA role, she will never lose the love she has for seeing a child reach their fullest potential.

 

casa_v_atca_redblue_rgb2Jacky is one of over 200 CASA Volunteers in Atlantic and Cape May Counties fighting for the rights of children living in foster care. CASA is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family. Take a stand against child abuse and join the CASA Movement today!

AtlanticCapeCASA.org   Facebook.com/casa4children   twitter.com/casa4children   (609) 601-7800

 

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National Volunteer Week: CASA Volunteers Listen First. Then They Act.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone doing extraordinary things through service.

This week honors the people and organizations that use volunteerism as a way to tackle society’s toughest challenges, spark change, and build stronger, more resilient communities.

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Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties is fortunate to count over 200 community volunteers working on behalf of children in foster care.

Nobody longs for a safe and loving family more than a child in foster care. As a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer, you are empowered by the courts to help make this dream a reality. CASA Volunteers not only bring positive change to the lives of these vulnerable children, but also their children and generations to come. In addition, in doing so, you will enrich your life as well.

Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.

Nearly 700,000 children experience abuse or neglect each year. Instead of playing with neighbors and making happy family memories, they are attending court hearings, adjusting to new foster homes and transitioning to new schools. That is a heavy burden for a child to carry. With a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer dedicated to their case, America’s most vulnerable children will have someone speaking up for their best interests. With your support, more children will have the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.

You do not have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be a volunteer. We welcome people from all walks of life. We are simply looking for people who care about children and have common sense. As a volunteer, you are thoroughly trained and well supported by experienced advocates and professional staff to help you through each case.

Ready to Stand Up for a Child Who Needs You?

National Volunteer Week is a great time to get involved!  Volunteer Your Time to Change a Child’s Life: find out how by visiting www.AtlanticCapeCASA.org

A Couple Surrounded By Love, Gives Love To Others

Late in the year 2016, Ella and Malcolm received a postcard from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. This small piece of mail, which easily could have become junk mail, has changed their lives.

10339604_877455062271759_8479904569277564162_nWhen Ella first received that postcard, she had never even heard of CASA. She showed it to Malcolm, who immediately thought CASA sounded like a very worthwhile organization. They were in complete agreement about the importance of standing up for the abused and neglected children in their communities. They liked the idea of being the voice for those children living in foster care who can go unheard. A woman of action, Ella registered them both for an Information Session.

By January 2017, they joined another 20 individuals in a training class to become CASA advocates. This diverse group shared one common goal: To become the eyes and ears of the family court judge for children living in foster care.

Married over 46 years, it was natural for them to team up and become CASA advocates together. “We found a volunteer opportunity that had meaning to us and one that we could do together. It was our intention to work as a team for these kids,” Ella shared.

The couple have always volunteered in their communities. Malcolm as a basketball coach, a Special Olympics board member and a career-trainer for the Opportunities Industrialization Center. Ella’s first volunteer experience was as for her local hospital when she was a high school student. After years of volunteer work for the American Cancer Society, Ella became their Lead Ambassador. They likely cannot remember a time when they were not involved in community service.

With three grown children of their own, they know the value of strong role models for raising children. Malcolm feels very strongly about the importance of male role models in a child’s life, and referred to one of his favorite Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Malcom and Ella knew how easy it would be for a child to fall through the cracks of the child welfare system and they were determined to do all that they could to keep this from happening. They committed themselves to the CASA training and at the end of 30 hours were sworn in as Volunteer Judiciaries by a family court judge. Like most CASA graduates, they were excited and anxious about their new roles as child advocates.

Their first case included six siblings, infant twins, a two-year-old girl, and a nine and a 12-year-old boy. “Working as a team with Ella has been great,” said Malcolm. Smiling he added, “I almost fired her once or twice.” They work well as a team and the children whom they advocate benefit from their shared viewpoints for what they believe are the best interest of the children.

The parents in their first case were eager to accept services that would help bring their family back together and gradually the family was reunified. “The kids were so excited,” Ella said. “In spite of what had happened, when you met those kids, you knew they were raised right…they were well-mannered, good kids.”

As experienced CASA advocates, they immediately accepted another case with three siblings placed with three foster families. They know that each situation is unique and that the children on this case may reunite with their parents, realize adoption or be cared for by a relative.

Whatever the outcome, Ella and Malcom will continue to share car rides to and from their child visits and keep in contact with all of the people in the children’s lives. They will discuss their findings and share opinions as they write their court reports and make recommendations that they believe will help each child succeed. They will come to know and truly care about each child, and through their generosity of time and spirit, will help make each child’s world a better place.

“When you have been blessed,” Malcolm said, “you have to bless others.”

 

casa_v_atca_redblue_rgb2Malcom and Ella are two of over 200 CASA Volunteers in Atlantic and Cape May Counties fighting for the rights of children living in foster care. CASA is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family. Take a stand against child abuse and join the CASA Movement today!

 

AtlanticCapeCASA.org
Facebook.com/casa4children
Twitter.com/casa4children
(609) 601-7800