Volunteer Spotlight: Darlene Gamble

Darlene Gamble, Volunteer in Prince George's County

Darlene Gamble, Volunteer in Prince George’s County

Name:  Darlene Gamble

Service Site:  CASA of Prince George’s County

How Long Have You Been a CASA volunteer? Currently 2 years in Prince George’s County.  2 years in DC around 1997.  Served?  4 years

Work Experience outside of CASA:  I work for the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts in DC. I also volunteer at my church, First Baptist Church of Glenarden in the Women’s Ministry, Divine Discipleship for Sisterhood and our Teen Ministry called Merge.

How did you hear about CASA, and what made you decide to volunteer?  I love doing community service work.  I heard about CASA at one of the Federal Government CFC drives.  I absolutely love working with children and helping others.  I love asking questions and following up on items to keep things moving forward.  I like to put the pieces together/connect the dots to help bring order to chaos.  I want to see people succeed with the right resources and right connections.

Describe your current case: I completed my CASA training in March 2014 and was assigned my CASA teen in April 2014. My CASA teen is a mother of two young children. While in care my CASA teen completed 10th and 11th grades. Her 2nd foster mother said my CASA teen was the first teenager she had who she did not have to wake up to go to school or call the police to her home to get her to go to school. My CASA teen was motivated to get up and get ready for school with no prompting from the foster mom. My CASA teen told me as well as others on her support team that she wanted to complete high school and get her diploma. She said she would be the first of her cousins to complete high school. My CASA teen was reunited with her mother with the goal of completing 12th grade. The goal was to have her return to the school where she was thriving which was in another county . Despite the entire team coming together to arrange transportation so she could continue in that school, she unfortunately decided to drop out. During her time in foster care my CASA teen had a support team of about 17 people. She had 3 different social workers and a host of support staff to help navigate her through the transition of being removed from her biological family and placed in care. The team consisted of an attorney, 2 different foster homes, 3 different social workers, Special Ed teams at 3 different schools, transportation liaison, therapist, mentor, the Judge and a CASA all supporting her goal of completing high school.

What sorts of activities do you and your CASA child/youth like to do together? Initially I would take my CASA teen to visit with her children at least 2 – 3 weekends a month.  Now I go to visit her at her apartment with her mother twice a month.

What is the most rewarding part of being a CASA volunteer?  The most rewarding part of being a CASA is the consistency that a CASA brings to the life of a child in care.  I was able to see firsthand how I was the one person on my CASA teen’s team that knew her history and could share with new team members (social workers, therapist, school staff, etc) concerns or information that my CASA teen could not articulate or remember.  I see the value of being able to connect the dots for the team and for my CASA teen.

What is one thing you would say to someone else interested in volunteering?  There are no special skills needed to volunteer as a CASA.  CASA’s come from every background and walk of life you can imagine.  The one common factor is a love for supporting children in care.  As a CASA you must be willing to do the leg work, paper work, research, outreach, etc to keep things on track for the child that you are assigned.  You really need to be an ADVOCATE for the child.  You will wear many hats but the reward is knowing that you have done ALLLLLLLL that you can to support a child in care.   You are not along to find your way.  As a CASA you will have a CASA Supervisor who will guide you through the process.  I have an amazing CASA Supervisor, Ms. Cheryl Richards.  She is a wonderful resource, she is always there for me when I get overwhelm.  She points me in the direction of next steps  to take to move things forward and resources that I can look into to support my CASA teen.  My CASA supervisor has REALLLLLY made being a CASA a wonderful experience.  I can reach out to my CASA supervisor and ask “how do I ….”, “what about…” ,  “who should I talk to about my CASA teen…”, and she always, always has a resource or an answer that helps.  There are other CASA’s you meet that can help you as well by sharing lessons learned and what they did in situations similar to what  you will experience with your CASA child.

What are CASA volunteers doing to help overcome the challenges faced by today’s youth?  CASA’s attend training that keep us abreast of issues facing children in care.  The training provides resources that can be used to support your CASA child.