This week’s volunteer spotlight features Deborah Pitts, a volunteer with CASA of Baltimore County, Inc. Deborah has served as a volunteer for 18 months and previously worked in a correctional environment for six years. When she retired, Deborah wanted to return to volunteering and had previous experience working with youth. When Deborah began researching a nonprofit to volunteer with, she discovered CASA and knew it would be a perfect fit.
Currently, Deborah is working with an 18-year-old girl who has grown up in foster care. Deborah’s CASA youth has had trouble with being bullied in school and in her group home. Deborah is helping her to learn important life skills, such as how to get along with her peers and how to express herself in a healthy manner. The girl has had trouble getting the care she needs, but Deborah has helped her to write a list of goals she wants to achieve and has her check them off each time she makes progress.
Deborah says many of her life experiences helped prepare her to be a CASA. She is able to connect with her CASA youth in several different areas, including helping her find her voice heard and learning to speak up and advocate for herself. Deborah makes sure she always displays genuine concern, compassion, and empathy for her CASA youth, and lets her know that she understands them and is always on their side.
One of Deborah’s CASA youth’s goals was that she wanted to live independently either in a cottage at her group home or at another location. Deborah had the girl show that she had the skills necessary to live independently. The girl cooked a meal for herself, washed dishes, cleaned her living space, did homework, shopped for essential supplies and stayed within her budget, and showed she could keep up with her medication schedule. The girl proved herself and Deborah then spoke with the girl’s case manager and helped her transition toward living independently.
Deborah sees her CASA youth two or three times a month and speaks with her daily. When Deborah spends time with her CASA youth, they typically go out to eat for vegan cuisine, grab a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, check out a thrift store, or stay in and draw or come up with new goals together.
On the days Deborah doesn’t see her CASA youth, she makes sure she speaks with her. When the girl expresses her wishes, Deborah does her best to make sure those wishes are met by meeting with the appropriate parties. Having an advocate like Deborah has helped the girl get more of the things she needs, and Deborah has enjoyed watching the girl progress from being in a constant state of sadness to someone happy and hopeful.
If someone is thinking about volunteering with CASA but hasn’t applied yet, Deborah says to make sure they have patience but can also be assertive when necessary.
“Believe in what your fight for and advocating for others because teachers, counselors, and group home workers cannot provide all that is needed by themselves. They need assistance,” stressed Deborah. “If it’s just one youth you can aid and help enrich their lives, do it!”
Being a CASA has its ups and downs, but advocates like Deborah make a tremendous difference in the lives of the children and youth they serve. Helping children and youths in need is the very heart of CASA and it couldn’t be done without wonderful volunteers like Deborah. Thank you for everything you do!