This week’s volunteer spotlight, Antoinette Murray from Voices for Children (Howard County), is very familiar with the foster care system. Antoinette adopted her now eight-year-old daughter and is also an aunt to her brother’s five adopted children. Being familiar with foster care made Antoinette want to advocate for children. She knew that becoming a CASA volunteer would be a great opportunity to do so. Antoinette has been a CASA for six years and is doing an amazing job!
Antoinette’s background is in education and she has always enjoyed working with children. Her experience teaching in Baltimore County public schools made her more aware that each child is different, and has different needs. She realized the children in the classroom didn’t simply exist in the room, they had lives outside that may not be known. They may be experiencing situations that could not be imagined. It is this experience that lead to her interest in helping children further beyond the classroom.
“If I can make a difference in one child’s life, to help them lead a successful life, that is great,” says Antoinette.
Currently, Antoinette is working with a boy who is in middle school. She has been working with him for almost six years. He came into care because of the severe abuse he experienced. Antoinette is by his side as he is trying to work through his trauma in therapy. The rights of his biological parents have been terminated, but Antoinette is working to help find the best fit for him.
When Antoinette spends time with her CASA child, she tries to instill important life skills. When her CASA child wouldn’t eat with his foster mother, Antoinette began taking him to restaurants to learn ordering and etiquette skills. Antoinette has also visited her CASA child’s home to help him learn other important skills, like how to clean his room. Antoinette also likes to take her CASA child fishing, to the library, or just out for a walk in the park.
Her current case is her second CASA child. Her first case was working with a child who had not been identified as special needs. He was struggling in public school and Antoinette helped him move to a special needs school that could meet his needs. Antoinette says he really improved in the school and learned many essential life skills he would not have learned otherwise.
In addition to her role as a CASA, Antoinette runs an in-home daycare. During the summer she assists in a 10-week camp for kids, as well as kids’ day off programs/workshops. She also works with the Howard County school system in order to distribute federal grants to Title 1 schools.
Antoinette’s CASA children are not the only ones who benefit from her role as a CASA. She says she also learned how to communicate with everyone involved in her CASA child’s case, and how to navigate through different perspectives on issues. She has learned how to look deeper into a child’s background and identify underlying issues. Some people may dismiss the child as just a bad kid, but there are usually unseen factors that affect their behavior. Learning the true situation helps Antoinette look beyond the behavior, and see who the child really is and what they are experiencing.
So, have you thought about volunteering as a CASA but haven’t applied yet? Antoinette wants you to know it is rewarding but also frustrating at times. However, she knows that she is truly helping children in need by guiding them and supporting them to live a successful and fulfilling life. That is the motivating drive for what keeps Antoinette going in her role as a CASA.
Thank you, Antoinette, for all your hard work helping children in need!