August 2023 Advocate Spotlight: Kelley Wolf
We invite you to meet Kelley Wolf, nominated by Case Supervisor Victoria Warmuth.
“In Kelley’s six years as an Advocate, she’s had 11 cases and has advocated for children with complex medical needs,” Victoria said. “She remains calm in the face of challenges and enjoys really connecting with school-aged youth.”
We asked Kelley to share her experiences as an Advocate.
Is there anything unique about your background that contributes to your approach to advocacy?
I’m a teacher and school administrator by training, and I love working with kids! Having navigated the (sometimes difficult) waters of parenting with two children of my own, I know the joys and struggles of parenting toddlers, teenagers, and young adults. Many of our CASA families have additional barriers—economic, educational, generational trauma—that can make parenting extra difficult. I try to empathize with their situation, understand their unique needs, and act as a mentor or connector to resources that can help them. I’ve always had an interest in law as well, and I have found it fascinating to see our legal system at work, up close and personal!
How did you become interested in volunteering as AN aDVOCATE?
I served as an alternate juror in a child abuse case in Montgomery County in 2015. As an alternate, I listened to all the testimony during the case but could not deliberate with the other jurors. While the judge and I awaited the verdict, we talked about the work that CASA Advocates do, and I pledged to become one.
Did you have any reservations about volunteering?
When I first started, my only reservation was the amount of time that advocacy would take. Since each case plays out differently, it’s hard to judge how “easy” or “difficult” a case may be—or how much time it may take. In the end, because of the relationships I’ve developed with the children and families in my cases, I want to do everything I can to improve the situation, no matter how long it takes.
Explain in your own words the work you do as a CASA aDVOCATE. Why is it essential for a child in care?
As a CASA Advocate, I want to act in the best interest of the child. In many cases, that means I spend quality time with the child/children to ensure that they feel loved, accepted, and listened to. In other cases, it means that I work to encourage parents to be the best they can be—through encouragement, modeling of positive skills, or researching options for them. In some situations, I’m acting as support for the foster family. And usually, it’s a combination of all those tasks! This ensures that the child is the beneficiary of the best possible outcome.
What has surprised you most about your aDVOCACY work?
I have been surprised at how much my input has been valued in a case. This ranges from the court to Child Protective Services to family members. I like to immerse myself in a new case and really get to know all the parties involved. This allows me to understand the root problems in a family system and make sure we are proceeding in the best way possible. With all of us working toward a common goal, we provide the best support for a child in care.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being an advocate? Most rewarding?
For me, the most challenging part is gaining trust from the family members at the beginning of a case. For many parents, this is the most vulnerable time in their lives. As an Advocate for the child, I approach the situation with empathy for everyone involved but also with a sense of duty to do the work needed to provide the best outcome for the child. The most rewarding part is when I gain that trust!
What would you like the community to know about children in care?
All children want love and belonging. They deserve to see that first in the home. As Advocates, we have a duty to make sure children have a safe, stable place to live that includes the feeling that they matter to someone.
What have you learned as an advocate?
Being a CASA Advocate has taught me how to sit with someone in their vulnerability. For many of our families, this is the most vulnerable time in their lives. Their children may be removed from the home, they may be experiencing relationship difficulties, and their families may be turning away from them. People handle this vulnerability differently—some get angry, others withdraw. Understanding the humanity of these reactions and being able to sit with them, without judgment, is what this experience has given me.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
I have so many happy memories of being an Advocate! One that stands out is my first adoption case. I’d been an Advocate for twins who were born prematurely and whose mother was unable to care for them. For weeks, I was the only consistent person outside of hospital personnel visiting and holding the babies. With limited information about the biological parents, I contacted family members looking for possible placement (to no avail). Upon their release from the hospital, the twins were placed with a loving foster family who adopted them just before their second birthday. Since they’d had several caseworkers over the course of the case, I was the only constant those children had throughout their time in care. Their adoption day was a happy one for me!
Anything else you want to share about casa?
I feel honored to serve as a CASA Advocate in Montgomery County. It’s not always an easy job. Seeing a child in pain or watching a parent struggle with addiction can be sad and discouraging, but I feel like it’s our job as community members to help where we can. I may not be able to wave a magic wand and remove all of a child’s problems, but I can certainly work to make the situation even just a tad bit better than it was before. Navigating the world of social work can be daunting, but I have had great support from CASA and especially my awesome Case Supervisor, Victoria Warmuth!