June Advocate Spotlight: Kevin Montagne
This month, we invite you to meet CASA Advocate, Kevin Montagne. Recently, Kevin was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for us.
Kevin was sworn in on June 20, 2020, and over the past year, he has taken on two cases involving four children. In addition, he has also led a CASA information event at his church to help recruit more Advocate volunteers (the church is supporting CASA Child Advocates as one of their Missions.) Kevin assisted CASA Training Manager, Jenn Engel, in arranging for the 2021 CASA Fall Conference to be held at his church as well.
As he celebrates his one-year anniversary as an Advocate, Kevin’s case supervisor, Susan, reports that he is ready and waiting to take on his next case!
Professionally, Kevin is an independent computer technology consultant providing services to large companies. He is also a husband, father of three, and grandfather of six!
CAN YOU TELL US, IN YOUR OWN WORDS, ABOUT WHAT PROBLEM CASA ADVOCATES HELP TO SOLVE?
There are numerous professionals (lawyers, caseworkers, counselors, judges, etc.) looking out for the interest of children in foster care. The challenge is that all these people have many other cases that compete for their time. By taking one case at time, a CASA Advocate can work with the various professionals, caregivers, and family members to focus on the needs of a single set of children. A CASA Advocate can give the children a voice and be an independent set of “eyes and ears” to the judge advocating for the children’s best interests.
HOW DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT CASA?
My youngest daughter is an LPC-Intern and she told me about the work that CASA does.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THIS CAUSE?
I was very involved in youth ministries across Texas and other states when my children were younger. My children are all adults now. I missed working with youth and having the opportunity to impact their lives.
DID YOU HAVE ANY RESERVATIONS ABOUT BECOMING AN ADVOCATE?
I had a couple that I suspect many new Advocates have. The first concern was ‘what if I make a mistake and it negatively impacts the lives of children?’ The second was wondering how seeing what some children have experienced would affect me.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOU WERE FIRST SWORN IN AS AN ADVOCATE?
I had two emotions: excited to get started and slightly anxious regarding the concerns above.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU TOOK YOUR FIRST CASE?
I was excited to dive in to get to know the children and see how I could help. My first case was dismissed after a few weeks, and the children were returned to their parents. So I signed on to take my next case.
WITH SO MANY WORTHWHILE ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT, WHY SHOULD OTHERS CHOOSE TO SUPPORT CASA?
CASA has a singular purpose to advocate for children in foster care, which is definitely a worthy cause. The Montgomery County CASA organization is committed to ensuring every child has an Advocate, and they do a fantastic job of that.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT CHILDREN IN FOSTER CARE?
The need is greater than I thought – both in terms of numbers and the circumstances the children are faced with.
WHAT WAS MOST SURPRISING TO YOU ABOUT THE ROLE OF AN ADVOCATE?
How much the judge was interested in hearing the views of the Advocate.
IS THERE ARE PARTICULAR MOMENT OR MEMORY THAT STANDS OUT FOR YOU?
The best moment thus far in my short term as an Advocate was sitting in the living room with the children and their parents the day after the judge signed the order to dismiss the case. It had been 10 long months for the family, and it was very rewarding to know that reunification was in the best interest of the children.
IS THERE AN ACHIEVEMENT OR CONTRIBUTION THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? And if so, Why?
It ties back to the case I mentioned above. It was the ability to advocate for the children and to support the parents in their efforts to regain their children. I feel I had a positive impact on helping the family through their crisis and getting one of the children the counseling they needed to deal with the trauma of the event that led to the involvement of CPS.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED AS A CHILD’S ADVOCATE?
Understanding the trauma that a child has faced and finding a way to connect with them.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING BECOMING A VOLUNTEER ADVOCATE?
If you are looking for a way to positively impact the lives of children, talk to Shellie Tyrrell [CASA Recruiting Manager] and other Advocates because each of the children in foster care deserves to have someone in their corner who will speak up for them.
What do you think other people should know about CASA as an organization?
I am impressed with how well the organization is run and how supportive they are of the advocates.
How has serving as an Advocate changed you?
It has made me more aware of what some children go through and given me another outlet to show compassion.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH US?
I would give a strong endorsement of my supervisor, Susan Truscott. She has been great in helping me learn how to be an Advocate and how the system works. She has replied to many texts with answers to my questions and listened while I bounced ideas off her.
And I’d also like to mention something about the training. New Advocates are not placed into the role without any support. The training for new Advocates is great, and the continuing education opportunities are very helpful.