Heart of CASA: February 2023
The Heart of CASA is a series to highlight the aspects of our volunteer work. Advocacy for a child in care covers several activities from court hearings to visits with a child to conversations with parents. Each month, we’ll share a story of a small (or big!) moment from one of our cases that exemplifies what advocacy can mean to a child and their families.
Connection to celebrations
Holidays and family celebrations can be especially challenging times for a child in foster care. Children share with their Advocates that they miss their own family’s traditions as well as spending these special moments with family members and friends. While most children look forward to their birthdays, a child in care may sometimes experience a range of emotions when they aren’t living with their families when they turn a year older. Parents also express to CASA that it’s particularly difficult for them, too, not to be able to celebrate birthdays how they do at home.
To make birthdays a little easier for both children in care, CASA works with CPS and families to host birthday celebrations at the CASA house that make a child feel extra special on their big day and foster connection to their family. Our birthday parties in the Amy Streifel Community Garden and the Waste Connections TBRI® Coaching Room bring big smiles for everyone! We have permission from several families to share a few of the birthday parties we’ve hosted at the CASA house recently.
princess for the day
With her third birthday around the corner, Emma* had several family members who wanted to celebrate with the little girl, including her baby brother who is also in care. Emma’s family worked with CASA staff to coordinate a special birthday party fit for a princess in the garden.
When the day arrived, Emma’s parents decorated our covered patio with balloons, sunflowers, decorations, and as many presents as our table could fit! They also brought a Minnie Mouse cake, food, and drinks. Emma loved all her gifts, especially the huge sunflowers that were almost as tall as she was! Best of all, Emma celebrated turning three with her brother, parents, and several extended family members, knowing that she is loved and cherished.
When a CASA Advocate found out that the child she serves, Anthony*, and his mom, Erika*, share the exact same birthday, she knew that we needed to make the day extra special for both mom and son. CASA and CPS hosted a double birthday celebration for Mom and Anthony. Erika arrived early to set up the cake, presents, and decorations in the garden for the big day.
CASA also surprised Erika with a present to make her birthday special. When Anthony arrived at the CASA house, he and his mom spent time playing and connecting in the sunny gardens. After playtime, they opened their presents and enjoyed a piece of cake. CASA and CPS serenaded the birthday twins with a round of “Happy Birthday.”
The CASA Case Supervisor said the quiet, sweet celebration was a wonderful third birthday celebration for Anthony and his mom. “We knew this day would be difficult for Erika and Anthony, and we wanted to make them both feel special,” the Case Supervisor said. “Every birthday is a cause for celebration!”
a boy and his best friend
Before Derek’s* sixth birthday, his parents asked CASA if they could have his birthday party in the TBRI playroom so that Derek’s dog could attend as a surprise! We love our pets at CASA, so we scrambled to make sure this special canine guest was welcome. In addition to his parents, step-mother, and older brother, Derek’s beloved 13-month-old dog, Alexis*, attended his birthday party at CASA. His parents brought a cake with candles and several gifts for his big day. After opening gifts and singing “Happy Birthday,” Derek was too busy giving Alexis kisses and playing with his new toys to eat cake! His mom made sure the birthday boy got a bite or two, though!
Birthdays on the go
Volunteer Advocates also deliver Celebration Boxes to help children in care celebrate their birthdays where they live, whether that is in their own home, relative’s home, foster home, group home, or residential treatment center. These specially made boxes are stocked with everything needed for a fun party, including decorations, paper goods, candles, and a cake mix with tub of frosting. When a child has a birthday, the Advocate brings the box (along with a birthday gift) to the child. The child has the option of baking the cake with the Advocate or their caregiver. Advocates can pick up the ready-to-go Celebration Boxes at the CASA house.
A day to celebrate
CASA embraces opportunities to support children in care and their families and promote normalcy for children. A birthday party with decorations, gifts, and cake with their families (and sometimes pets!) in a beautiful, fun location is one way we help families remain connected. Every time we host a birthday party, the house and gardens are filled with laughter and smiles. Children may not remember the gifts they received, but we hope they will remember the feeling of being celebrated forever.
*Names changed for privacy
EVERY CHILD DESERVES A CHANCE … IT’S YOU!