December 2022 Advocate Spotlight: Katherine Fitzgerald
We invite you to meet Katherine Fitzgerald, nominated by Case Supervisor Francine Stanfield.
“Katherine has been a phenomenal Advocate for her CASA child, pursuing every available opportunity for her and championing her through her fight to gain legal status and find safe family,” Francine said. “Katherine’s encouragement is helping this young lady to find her voice and speak up for herself!”
We asked Katherine to share her experiences as an Advocate.
Is there anything unique about your background that contributes to your approach to advocacy?
My father was from Texas and met my mother working as a geologist in Colombia, where I was born. After he was transferred from South America, I spent the rest of my childhood in the Caribbean. It was not until my teen years that I returned to the U.S. Moving around meant being exposed firsthand to some of the difficulties and losses a child can experience when trying to integrate into a different culture. I know my cross-cultural background and experiences, as well as my ability to speak Spanish, have helped me navigate the cultural nuances of my case.
How did you become interested in volunteering as AN aDVOCATE?
I know this to be true—helping others in need never fails to ground you and gives you perspective. While going through a very sad event in my life, I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer in a meaningful, purposeful way. I had heard about CASA on NPR radio many times and decided to find out more about it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Did you have any reservations about volunteering?
I was concerned about letting a child down if I didn’t “get things right.” I quickly found out that there is no one formula for succeeding, and that’s what makes the advocacy experience unique. CASA gives us the framework, guidelines, and support for advocating for our kids. The rest is a whole bunch of caring, listening, and creative problem-solving (and a good dose of note-taking!).
Explain in your own words the work you do as a CASA aDVOCATE. Why is it important for a child in care?
As an Advocate, I work on staying aware and informed on the safety and needs of the child, and where I can, I try to remove obstacles to having those needs met. This is important because in every case there are many parties involved, but the dots are not always connected. My work as an Advocate gives my child a voice.
What has surprised you most about your aDVOCACY work?
I was amazed at the immense community of goodwill through all of the volunteers and staff that are the CASA engine. CASA has also surpassed my expectations by how well it is organized and the resources and training available to the volunteers, all of which help us succeed.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a casa? Most rewarding?
There are limits to the Advocate’s role and you have to count on many other people to do their best for the child. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and that can feel frustrating and sad. The most rewarding aspect for me is getting to sit back now and listen to my child share stories about friends and the things that make her happy. Despite the hardships, a good outcome is possible for children in care.
What would you like the community to know about children in care?
I would like the community to know that children in care are no different than any other child. If they have caring connections, stability, and the opportunity to see the world as a safe place, they can also thrive.
What have you learned about children in care?
Volunteering with CASA has opened my eyes to the level of trauma children in care are burdened with. It has made me aware of the monumental task that is required of the child welfare system.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
We were in our first PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) meeting, and my child was asked who in her circle she felt comfortable sharing with and talking to. She said, “My CASA Advocate.”
Anything else you want to share about CASA?
I would encourage anyone interested in making a difference in the life a child to consider volunteering at CASA.