Volunteer For: CASA of Montgomery County
How long have you been a CASA volunteer? Served?
I was appointed to my first case in November, 2001. I was assigned to a brother and his sister who were both in elementary school at the time. I stayed with the girl until 2005 and the boy until March, 2007. I was appointed to my next case in February,2009 and it closed in September, 2009. My third case was with an elementary school boy and I was appointed in September of 2009 and his case closed in February, 2013. I was appointed to my current case in December, 2013.
Work Experience outside of CASA:
I received a B.A in elementary Education from the Catholic University of America in 1976 and began my professional career as a fifth grade teacher in a Catholic School in Olney, MD and did this for a year. While I pursued a M.ED in Reading Education at the University of Maryland, I continued at the same school as the Language Arts teacher for the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Once I completed my degree, I became the Reading Specialist at a Catholic School in Bowie, MD and then began my PhD program in Reading Education at the University of Maryland, which I completed in 1984. I then began with Fairfax County Public Schools and worked in that system as a Title One Reading Specialist and a Reading Specialist for several elementary schools in the county. I resigned in December, 2000.
How did you hear about CASA, and what made you decide to volunteer?
While getting a manicure at a local nail salon, I listened to another client talk about CASA. She and I seemed to have the same appointment time for several weeks and I continued to hear her talk about it. Finally, I asked her more about CASA. Since I was working and had two young children, I didn’t have the time to commit to CASA then, but I made a commitment to myself that, when I retired, I would check it out. In the summer of 2001, I did contact Montgomery County CASA and submitted my application. I was accepted into the training class for September, 2001. However, I wasn’t fully committed and as I left the training each night, I wasn’t sure that I’d return the next session… However, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred the week I was training and rocked my world like everyone. I decided that I should do something to make my part of the world a better place and have been a CASA Volunteer ever since.
Describe Your Current Case:
At the time I was appointed, both of the children were living in a foster home. The boy was in kindergarten and the girl stayed home with the foster mom. The biological parents did not live together – the biological mom was in a treatment facility and the biological father lived in a townhouse. Both biological parents had visitation, under the direction of the department, with their children and saw them on the average of once a week. At the end of the school year, the children were moved to a different foster home and visits with their biological mother continued and, by December, 2014, the children spent weekends with their mother, and the father speaks with his son on the phone weekly.
In August,2015, a trial home visit with their mother began and we are still in that phase of the case. Many professionals, school staff members, a family therapist, an individual therapist for the girl, and a parent educator meet weekly in the home with the family. The family has support from both sets of grandparents who are involved with this case. At this time, the focus of these professionals is to provide intensive parent education for the mother, both at home and at school.
What sorts of activities do you and your CASA child/youth like to do together?
Due to my educational background, I generally meet with the children at school during their lunch period. I have regular communication with the school staff regarding the academic and emotional progress of the children. During our time together, we chat about their week, both happy and sad times. We also will either play a game or do some type of art activity. When I see them in their home, we have baked cookies and done some type of art activity.
What is the most rewarding part of being a CASA volunteer?
There is nothing like a smile or a hug from my CASA children. The children have developed a trusting relationship with me and I have been a constant in their lives when others may not able to be. When I leave a visit, I try to pull out my calendar and show them when I will see them again and I try to always ask them if they have any questions for me.
What is one thing you would say to someone else interested in volunteering?
Before becoming a CASA, I think I was naïve about the need in Montgomery County. I felt like Montgomery County was an affluent county and children and families were doing ok. Once I became a CASA, that naïve belief changed and I realized how bad things are for many children. Unfortunately, there will always be a need for CASAs to advocate for children. I think the most important thing I could tell a prospective volunteer is that these children are innocent and deserve someone special in their lives. Without a CASA, their future is very bleak.
What are CASA volunteers doing to help overcome the challenges faced by today’s youth?
CASA volunteers work very hard connecting with the people in the lives of their children. We work hard to figure out what’s working for these children and what’s not working. We might be the only people who are trying to help them have a chance at success. The best part is when the children realize what we are doing for them.