Heart of CASA: June 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 a Familiar face
The end of school brings exciting opportunities for children to participate in graduations, end-of-year programs, and other events where they get up in front of a crowd. This can be a daunting experience for any child, but this is especially overwhelming for a child in care who may be in a new school and may not have any family attending the event. When that child looks into the audience, there is no familiar face to give encouragement. Our Advocates are often the one person who has been with the child since the child has entered the foster care system, and they are stepping up so that when the child they serve steps onto the stage and looks out into a sea of unfamiliar faces, there is one friendly smile they recognize.
A Cowgirl’s curtsy
Eight-year-old Addie* started a new school after an emergency removal from her previous placement. Her class was preparing for a Go Texan play that she was expected to participate in. She had less than a week to learn the music and choreography. After a visit with her family at the CPS office, she talked with her Advocate, Philip*, who has been her Advocate since she entered care three years ago. She invited Phillip and his CASA Case Supervisor, who was also at the visit, to the play the next night so she could show them what she’d learned in just a few days. The next night Phillip and the supervisor sat in the audience when the lights dimmed and the play began. Addie strutted onto the stage, decked out in a cowgirl costume put together by her foster mom for the performance. Addie performed the Texas-themed show, which included a rendition of “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” with her classmates. When the actors took their bows, Phillip and the CASA supervisor were the first in the audience to give a standing ovation. And Addie tipped her cowgirl hat to them with a smile and a curtsy.
Living in a Residential Treatment Center (RTC), Miguel* had very little contact with his family. He had sporadic contact with a grandmother, but he was unsure if she would make it to his graduation ceremony from elementary school. Because of his special needs, Miguel struggled day-to-day with some behavioral issues, but he was proud to graduate from elementary and move on to middle school. He wondered, though, at a visit with his Advocate, Clint*, if anyone would be there to celebrate his accomplishment. When Miguel was recognized at his graduation ceremony, Clint was in the audience to cheer him on and acknowledge how much he’s overcome to move on to his next grade. Clint’s presence was especially important as the child’s grandmother was unable to attend.
At their next visit at the RTC, Miguel made a point to thank Clint for being at his graduation. He said it made him happy to see Clint in the crowd.
In another case, one child, Cecilia*, was graduating from Kindergarten. This little girl was behind in school due to neglect before she entered care. She should have been finishing the second grade. This sweet, outgoing girl invited everyone to her Kindergarten graduation—her CPS caseworker, Advocate, and foster family! The group all showed up to celebrate her accomplishment, and she was all smiles to see her Advocate, Suzanne*, at her big day.
Amanda* was excited about her upcoming writer’s showcase for the end-of-year activities. Her relative caregiver had just started a new job and couldn’t get the day off work to attend the showcase during the school day. Her Advocate, Melissa*, stepped in and attended the showcase with Amanda. Melissa met Amanda’s teacher, whom she’d communicated with throughout the school year, and she read all of Amanda’s writing pieces at the special event. Melissa said it was a moving experience to attend the event with Amanda and read her thoughts and see her writing progress throughout the year. Amanda knew her Advocate would be there for her, because she’s attended several events at the school, including a choir concert! A month later, at the adoption ceremony for Amanda and her sister, both the Advocate and Amanda’s teacher ran into each other. The teacher said it made a world of difference to Amanda that she had someone at the showcase to encourage her and show appreciation for her skills.
*Names changed for privacy