Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the youth you are working with?
I live in Baltimore County, White Marsh to be exact. I have been a CASA for nearly 12 years. My current youth and I have been together for 6 years. She has been in foster care for approximately 11 years. She is 20 and will be turning 21 in a few months. Hence, she will be aging out of foster care very soon. This is an event that she has been looking forward to but is also a bit anxious about being solely responsible for herself. Currently she is employed full time, in school part time, owns her own car, and with the assistance of New Pathways is living in her own apartment with 2 cats.
What sorts of things do you and your CASA Youth like to do together?
We spend a lot of time together talking about the future, dating, financial issues, housing options, working on homework assignments, grocery shopping, clothes shopping, or just eating out together. On occasion I’ll offer to do her laundry or help her clean the apartment….which we laugh about a lot. I am often asked to help with a recipe she is trying out. When it comes to advice or assistance with nearly everything, I am her primary go to person. She is a very busy young woman and I am very proud of her accomplishments and her successes.
Do you feel that mentors are important for children? If so, may we ask why?
I am reluctant to toot my own horn, but I know if you ask her she will tell you that I have been very instrumental in helping her navigate all of life’s ups and downs. For her, my role as a mentor has been highly beneficial. I believe that a mentor can be critical to a foster youth’s success as an adult. Many foster children especially those who age out of the system have no parental role model, no family to fall back on when the going gets tough, no one to walk life’s journey with, no one to dream with. A CASA volunteer can fill that role quite easily, especially if the two parties are together for many years.
What made you choose to get involved with CASA?
Many years ago I was searching for a place to volunteer and make a difference in my community. I found that opportunity with CASA. My years with CASA and the kids I have worked with have provided me with more fulfillment and satisfaction then they will ever know. I have no children of my own and I travel for a living. I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life and give another person the benefit of my knowledge and life skills. CASA has made that possible for me. When I first started volunteering at CASA I had no idea where it would lead. I had no plans to advocate for five children and be part of the program for 12 years.
If you could send a personal message to someone who is considering volunteering their time – not even necessarily for CASA – what would you tell them?
Today, I wholeheartedly believe that the CASA organization is essential to the development and success of a child in foster care. Volunteering in any capacity in the community has a way of rounding out one’s life and giving it purpose. There are many places that need people to volunteer. If ever I am asked where to volunteer or how to make a difference I would most certainly recommend the CASA program.