Heart of CASA: March 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 Normalcy
In the Texas Foster Care Bill of Rights, youth in care have the right to “have a normal life.” Normalcy while a child is in care is defined as providing a child access to a range of activities and relationships that are typical for other children their age. CASA Advocates work every month alongside parents, Child Protective Services caseworkers, foster parents, teachers, and other adults in a child’s life to ensure that a child has similar opportunities as other children. When a child is placed in a group home or residential treatment center (RTC), normalcy can be an even greater challenge.
The Thing that flies?
One of our Advocates, Dan*, is currently assigned to two young brothers who live in an RTC. Alex* is nine years old, and Nathan* is eight. Before a recent visit, Alex called Dan and asked him to bring the “thing that flies.” Dan has brought several flying toys to visits, so he wasn’t quite sure which kind of toy Alex meant. They discussed what Alex wanted. Alex said the toy had a string and it flew in the air while you held the string. Alex didn’t know the word for kite! Dan confirmed that the boys wanted to fly a kite, which they’d never done before! Alex had learned about kites at school, and he was curious to fly one.
Dan arrived for his next visit with two kite kits for the boys (and one extra in case they had a flying mishap!). Before the boys began flying the kites, Dan got permission from the RTC. Dan then discussed with the brothers how to fly a kite, and they developed a plan in case something went wrong. There were some power lines around the RTC, so they had to discuss the dangers and plan where to safely fly the kites. The boys also discussed with Dan what to do if the kite crashed off the RTC property or got stuck in a tree. With the plan in place, it was time to fly their kites.
Let’s go fly a kite!
Dan and the boys lucked out, and the weather conditions were ideal for kite-flying the day of his visit! Alex and Nathan worked to build the kites with help from Dan. Once they were built, both boys lifted them up into the air and began to run, letting the strings all the way out while the kites caught the wind and flew high into the sky. Dan told the boys about flying kites when he was a kid—he and his friends would put a grasshopper in a paper bag attached to the kite and send the grasshopper on his first flight. Nathan delighted in the story!
Alex lost interest in kite-flying after 15 minutes, and soon after the kite crash-landed in the street. Nathan began to chase his brother’s fallen kite while flying his own, and Dan had to correct him three times to remember the safety plan. After Dan retrieved the downed kite, the boys put them back into their bags and carried them inside (along with the spare kite) into their home, ready for their next adventure.
Right to normalcy
Whether flying a kite, having a sleepover with a school friend, joining a club at school, dating, or learning to drive a car, normalcy helps children connect with their communities, culture, and important people. Normalcy also builds stronger bonds with caregivers. Foster youth report that they are often treated differently because they are in care, encountering red tape to get approval to participate in normal everyday activities. Advocates, such as Dan, are an important link to ensuring that children in care are given these opportunities that are important for their growth, development, and overall well-being. Normalcy means that a child has the chance to just be a kid!
*Names changed for privacy