Service Site: Frederick County
How long have you been a CASA volunteer? As a CASA volunteer, I am now going into my second year.
Work experience outside of CASA: My career outside of being a CASA is in the pharmaceutical industry with over 20 years with experience in sales management, marketing, regulatory, finance and legal. My career expertise is launching new start up international pharmaceutical companies and I am currently employed as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Acella Pharmaceuticals, LLC.
How did I hear about CASA and what made you decide to volunteer? I started hearing about the stories of abused and neglected children from the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, the Frederick New Post, Facebook and television. I made a call to the Mental Health Association of Frederick County and spoke to Jennifer Fuss, Program Manager for CASA of Frederick County, who helped me understand the rewards to the child and how a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) could truly affect the rest of their life. I applied for the opportunity and went through an intense background check. After several months of classroom training by Peg Marose, Casa Trainer and Supervisor, I was appointed by the Circuit Court for Frederick County, MD and, then presented a case that the Mental Health Association and I both felt a good match.
I decided to volunteer because in this world, adults have the right to make their own choices – sometimes good, sometimes bad. However, children are little humans brought into this world with absolute innocence but sometimes negative influences and actions are put upon them that affect their mental, physical and psychological well-being. When it is not their choice and the impact of bad behavior causes significant trauma in the form of abuse or neglect, then they need someone who can represent and look out for their best interests. When a child is in need of an advocate they are called a CINA – a Child In Need of Assistance.
What sort of activities do you and your CASA child/youth like to do together? We spend time playing basketball, going for fast food, reading books, taking hikes, going to the mall and talking about school. However, no matter what it is just by hanging out and letting them know you are listening and that you really care speaks volumes to the child. When they know you are paying attention and that they are important to you that is when their lives start down a better path – one of healing, growing and looking at the world with happiness and hope in their eyes. I spend time being a positive adult role model as but there is so much more and we have a special bond.
I also assist social services and attorneys with supporting those evaluations and needed therapy, attending court representing the child. I make recommendations to the court on necessary actions steps that I feel are in the best interest of the child on the part of everyone to strive for the ultimate goal of permanent reunification of the child with the parents. The role of a CASA is to Investigate, Facilitate, Monitor and Advocate for the best interests of children in neglect and abuse proceedings.
What is the most rewarding part of being a CASA volunteer? The most rewarding part of being a CASA volunteer is knowing that you are having an enormous impact on these children and that it will affect the rest of their life – what decision they makes, how they act towards others and the future they make for themselves. You could say a CASA is a volunteer, but I would disagree…to me being a CASA is a “calling”. This is not about receiving recognition but instead it is of giving yourself without judgement.
“Michael Campagnoli has been an extraordinary CASA,” says Case Supervisor Cathie Deadrick. “His commitment to the child’s wellbeing has been consistent and earnest.”
What is one thing you would say to someone else interested in volunteering? The one thing I would say to someone else interested in become a Court Appointed Special Advocate is that it is more than just volunteering. To me, being a CASA is really a calling – it is not about the recognition, being awarded with plaques, getting your name on a side of a building, etc…it is purely about giving of yourself to someone in trouble, someone who you can focus on one-on one, keeping absolute confidentiality, acting with integrity and following the laws. It is emotional but it is a higher “calling” that any other volunteering you will ever do in your life. When people say I cannot save the world, I tell them I am going to try and why don’t try too.
What are CASA volunteers doing to help overcome the challenges faced by today’s youth? In today’s changing world, the Mental Health Association of Frederick County requires a minimum requirement of training each year to stay abreast of the laws. In addition, there is constant teaching of the diverse lifestyles, cultures, races and genders using webinars, seminar, courses taught by professionals live and on-line, case review meetings and such to improve and overcome the challenges faced by today’s youth. Most exciting are the state conferences like the Maryland CASA Conference coming up on Saturday, April 9th at the Judiciary Education and Conference Center in Annapolis. and national conferences like the National CASA Conference coming up June 4th -6th at the National Harbor. These conferences are held each year to help bring together CASA’s across the state and the nation to learn and grow and support their efforts.