Name: Caryn Weaver
Service Site: Anne Arundel County
How long have you been a CASA volunteer? I have been a CASA for one year.
Work Experience outside of CASA: My background includes being a Vice President of a Direct Marketing company, doing graphic designing with an emphasis on marketing, branding & direct mail.
How did you hear about CASA, and what made you decide to volunteer? I had an interest in local volunteer work and did a Google search for non‐profit organizations in my area. I was not aware of the program, and never heard of CASA. After doing research, and reading all about the CASA program, I knew it was exactly what I was looking to do and it would be a perfect fit.
Describe your current case: My volunteer work with CASA began in the office assisting them with graphic designing, fundraising efforts, and whatever else they needed. Then I started my court training, was sworn in, and received my CASA certification in June of 2015. As part of my training, our class went to court to observe a case. I was sitting directly behind a little boy who was in his sixth foster home. After the court hearing, my supervisor pulled me aside and asked if I would be interested in taking his case, as well as two of the other siblings in his family. I immediately knew I was in the right place at the right time and said yes. He is a sibling in a family of several children, each of whom were removed from their home due to neglect and poor living conditions. It’s a horrific story with a long case history, and it broke my heart reading the myriad of case files. I wasn’t sure if my heart was going to be able to handle this kind of work, yet I knew I had to try, and was determined to put my all into it. I will never forget my first visit with this little boy; he was standing at the top of the staircase looking down at me with the most beautiful big blue eyes. He was all bundled up in a big winter coat that was zipped all the way up and tied at his neck exposing only his eyes. At the time it was summer and about 95 degrees outside. He was so frightened. He was getting ready to be pulled from his current foster home and moved into what would be his seventh foster home. I remembered as I looked up at him, I wanted to cry, but fought back the tears and gave him a great‐big smile. I said to him, “my name is Caryn, but you can call me by my nickname ‘CARE’ ‐ that way you can always remember that I’ll be here for you and I will always CARE”. His younger brother, (my other CASA child), was recently moved into his ninth foster home; and their baby sister, (my third CASA child), was removed from her mother immediately after her birth and is currently living with a foster family that is going to adopt her.
It definitely has not been easy work, and there have been times when the situations have been intense, challenging, frustrating, scary and sad. But when my CASA child said to me for the first time, “I love you Care”, and every time he goes to give me a hug – it makes all of the hardships worthwhile. Without a doubt, my time as a CASA Volunteer is the most intense, yet rewarding work of my life.
What sorts of activities do you and your CASA child/youth like to do together? Since I have two little CASA boys, I like to do things outside and stay active when the weather cooperates. We play miniature golf, walk around the park, see movies, play video games, and I also always take them somewhere to eat. One of my CASA boys does not have a computer in his house, so I often take him to use the computer at the library and work with him on his typing skills, and how to use the Internet. I also try to get my two CASA boys together as often as possible. The three of us recently attended the Lego convention and had a wonderful time.
What is the most rewarding part of being a CASA volunteer? Words cannot describe the feeling of getting to know what were once little‐lost‐scared‐souls, uprooted from their families and home, and having been through so much – and then being there to support them as they get some sense of their lives back. It truly is a gift to witness your CASA child ‘really’ smile again, and be able to have a chance at a childhood that is safe, nurturing and loving ‐ as every child deserves. While this work is not easy, it has filled my heart with so much joy to know that I’m making a difference in the life of a broken‐down child.
What is one thing you would say to someone else interested in volunteering? If you have the time and the heart to do this kind of work, you should do it. I have been on the board of two nonprofit organizations and have done volunteer work for four others, but none have come close to the experience of being a CASA Volunteer. If you go into it with an open mind and open heart, it will be the experience of a lifetime for both you and your CASA child. It’s not a perfect system, as with anything you will find flaws. There are a lot of problems and things broken within the foster care system, and sometimes you have no control over situations. But if you stick with it, it will force you to grow as a person more than you can imagine, and it will make you stronger.
What are CASA volunteers doing to help overcome the challenges faced by today’s youth? By being a voice - a support system - a consistent‐nurturing adult – and a constant in a child’s life that otherwise would not have one. There’s not enough being done in today’s society to help innocent abandoned children that are scared, neglected and have no one in their corner. They’re alone in the world and don’t have a clue what to do. CASA Volunteers help them overcome the hurdles and challenges that they will be faced with living in the foster care system. Every child deserves to be safe and loved, and there currently are not enough CASA Volunteers for every child in foster care. A caring steadfast adult who looks out for kids living in foster care ‐ that is something that every foster child needs and deserves. By being a CASA Volunteer and giving your CASA child a voice…you are giving them a chance at life. Children are our future, and all children deserve the chance to thrive by being loved and supported.