August Advocate Spotlight: Katherine Orr
Katherine was nominated by her CASA Case Supervisor, Jennifer Reitmeyer, who shared the following about Katherine’s advocacy efforts:
“Katherine has always connected with the kids and the families. She is a true pleasure to work with. She is 100% committed to CASA and meets all of Texas CASA’s minimum expectations. Katherine is a very hard worker and has a big heart!”
Can you tell me in your own words about what problem Advocates help to solve?
Advocates work with child(ren) who have come into foster care, as well foster families, the child’s attorney, and the CPS caseworker, and often the child’s own family with the goal of reunifying that family. Advocates make sure that while the child is in foster care, all their needs are being met, with the best interests for their physical health and mental well-being, their education, and healthcare, always the top priority. We make sure the child’s voice is heard in court.
How did you first hear about CASA?
I used to live on Lake Conroe and there was a billboard on Hwy. 105 advertising for CASA. I was intrigued about helping kids in foster care.
What attracted you to this cause?
I know what it is like to be a child coming from a hard place. I had someone intervene in my life, and it gave me hope. I thought a long time about how I could pay that hope forward and help a child in need. I want to make a difference in children’s lives.
Did you have any reservations about becoming an Advocate?
Once I met with Shellie [CASA Recruiting Manager] and learned about CASA and the training provided, I never looked back.
Can you describe how you felt when you were sworn in?
I was proud and a little emotional. It’s a big deal when you stand before the judge and accept the appointment by the court to help these children. It’s a tremendous responsibility.
Can you describe how you felt when you took your first case?
My first case involved a sibling group of 4, who were placed in two different foster homes. I was eager to get to know them and learn everything I could about them and their situation. Once I met them, I knew they needed my help, and I knew what I had to do.
With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support CASA?
CASA helps kids in foster care who have lost all their connections; their family and friends, their school and church, sometimes even their siblings, and mostly their trust in the people who are supposed to keep them safe. CASA helps put these innocent lives back together, and often this results in them being in a much better place than before.
What have you learned about children in foster care?
Kids in foster care are like any kid on a good day. It’s the bad days when you can tell they have really suffered a trauma. They are suspicious at first, not knowing what is going to happen next and who are all these strangers around, and can they be trusted? Over time, by building a trusting relationship by offering encouragement and hope, the child begins to reconnect and have hope again.
What was most surprising to you about the role of an Advocate?
I have been surprised by how much the caseworkers, the children’s attorneys, and the judge value CASA’s work and opinions for the children’s best interests.
Is there are particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
Each case I have worked on has had moments that stand out and that I will never forget. Usually, there is a moment where the child(ren) come to realize that they are not alone on this journey and there is someone who deeply cares about what happens to them.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
I had a case with a 2 year-old girl whose mom had basically abandoned her parental responsibilities. When I took the case, the mom was addicted and in bad shape, and I really wondered if she would be able to recover. I thought the little girl would need an adoptive family. With family reunification in mind, the caseworker, the attorney ad litem, and I worked with the child’s mom. She completely turned her life around and now has custody of her daughter and they are doing great!
The mom had been absent in the child’s life for so long that the child had forgotten that this was her mom. They had to completely re-bond as a family. Mom was so receptive and cooperative with her services and counseling, and so patient with her young child. It was a beautiful thing to watch this mom and daughter re-connect.
What was the biggest challenge you have faced as a child’s Advocate?
My biggest challenge is helping a child who has suffered the trauma of abuse and/or neglect learn how to trust again.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a volunteer Advocate?
Being an advocate means that you wear many hats in looking out for these children’s best interests. You are simultaneously a helper and encourager, an investigator, an assistant, a resource finder, and a proactive voice for that child in court.
What do you think other people should know about CASA Child Advocates?
CASA Advocates stay with the child all the way through their time in foster care. Attorneys and caseworkers might change, foster homes might change. The CASA Advocate is a consistent presence that the child can depend on to always be there, from the beginning of the case until the end.
How has your advocacy work changed you?
I have greater appreciation for all the people and organizations that work together to fill in the gaps for kids who find themselves placed in foster care.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
The CASA program here in Montgomery County offers great training and support for all the volunteer Advocates. The staff is exceptional, and they work together to make sure the Advocates have everything necessary to help the children.
I would like to add that I have two volunteer Helping Hearts who are a tremendous help to me on my cases. [Helping Hearts are volunteers who assist Advocates on cases; they are screened and receive abbreviated training but are not appointed by the court to serve as Guardian Ad Litem.] These two individuals are a huge support to me and the children for whom I advocate. There are many times that one or both of my Helping Hearts have said something very insightful that resulted in me having more clarity about next steps in the case. It’s a wonderful way to have a positive impact on a child’s life, and support me as a CASA. I am grateful to both of them.
Also, my CASA supervisor, Jennifer Reitmeyer, is phenomenal! She has a wealth of information and knowledge and is super supportive!