After 25 years of teaching middle-schoolers Spanish and French, this week’s volunteer spotlight, Mary Jane Price of CASA of Harford County knew for a long time that working with children and youth is where her heart lies. While she was teaching out of state, Mary Jane often had the opportunity to meet with parents and discuss their children’s special needs. The parents would then bring in advocates for the children to fulfill those needs — something that planted the seed for Mary Jane to become a child advocate in her retirement!
Being able to recognize the various needs of children and youth is what makes Mary Jane such a great CASA volunteer. Mary Jane wrapped up her first case a couple months ago that involved an adolescent who was removed from an abusive household. Through her advocacy, however, he is now placed with a fabulous foster family, who have since been awarded legal guardianship. She is still close in touch with all of them and plans to remain so.
A memorable moment Mary Jane had with her CASA child was when she took him out to eat for the first time. Food deprivation was one of the reasons he was removed from his mother. Mary Jane says her CASA child ordered enough food for three kids. While he only ate a little, he took the rest home to stash for later.
“One of the things he ordered was his first Caesar salad – and he called it elegant! I still get a lump in my throat about that day,” she says.
Currently, Mary Jane is working with another CASA youth who shares a similar background to that of her previous case.
When Mary Jane is not spending time with her CASA youth, she teaches at Harford Community College and volunteers in various capacities. She also loves to travel, and has planned her 40th visit to Disney World!
If you’re thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer, Mary Jane wants you to know that it not only requires time but a lot of heart. Being a volunteer involves working through anger and frustration with the family, legal system, and social services. She says that if you’re not willing, to be honest, sincere, tenacious, and a fighter for kids in need, don’t sign up!
“The last thing these kids is another adult who lets them down,” says Mary Jane. “The kids need to know that we are in it for only reason – for them, and only them. That’s the most important thing.”
Moments like the one mentioned above is what keeps Mary Jane going in being the best CASA volunteer she can be. While there can be some challenges in the process, she is grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference in a children’s lives.
Thank you, Mary Jane, for your time and dedication to Maryland’s abused and neglected children!