October 2022 Advocate Spotlight: Mark Fincher
We invite you to meet Mark Fincher, nominated by Case Supervisor Mike Quinn.
“Mark has been an Advocate for more than six years,” Mike said. “In that time, he’s had eight cases from babies to teens. Where Mark especially shines is with adolescent and teenage boys—his empathy and understanding are beyond measure. He connects with the kids in depth and breadth that few can match. Any of our kids would be lucky to have Mark as an Advocate, but his advocacy for traumatized teens is amazing.”
We asked Mark to share his experiences as an Advocate.
Is there anything unique about your background that contributes to your approach to advocacy?
I’m well-traveled, and I’ve lived all over the world. I’ve seen a lot of poverty, which is often at the core of the problems we see. My wife and I have two children, who are both adults, and two grandchildren. My daughter is a young, single mom. It has been a big struggle for her. It was especially challenging when my grandson was a baby and she was going to college and raising him at the same time. Witnessing her struggles and perseverance gave me a sense of how difficult life can be for single mothers and their children. My wife and I were very involved in our daughter’s and grandson’s lives, but we had the resources to help them. That experience gave me a lot of sympathy for those moms who must make do with much less support.
How did you become interested in volunteering as AN aDVOCATE?
I had some awareness of CASA. Friends of ours invited us to the gala one year, so I knew about the program. What got me to volunteer was when my daughter was in north Texas with her son and going to school. My wife or I were driving up there every other weekend to help her out. Texas CASA had this big billboard on I-45 between Huntsville and Conroe. I would see this billboard heading back home on every trip I took. It really spoke to me. I felt God calling to me, saying “You gotta do this.” I was working at the time and had very little free time. However, I knew when I got ready to retire, I would volunteer with CASA.
Did you have any reservations about volunteering?
I didn’t. I probably should have, but it felt like a calling. I thought, Let’s go do it.
Explain in your own words the work you do as a CASA aDVOCATE. Why is it important for a child in care?
First and foremost, we provide stability. One of the cases I’m on has been going on for almost six years. I’ve been in this little boy’s life since the beginning. He’s had multiple caseworkers and lived in several foster homes and RTCs. What he can count on is me. I visit him every other week. I’ll probably be in his life for the rest of my life. The other job we do is work with the half dozen or so other participants on a case to either return the child home or to another permanent placement as soon as possible. We have fewer cases than the other players, so we can focus on helping ensure the job gets done, and that everyone is marching forward and coordinating.
What has surprised you most about your aDVOCACY work?
Maybe that I can do it. This is a hard job. You see some really tough stuff. You can get emotionally overwhelmed if you dwell too much on the awful things some of these kids have experienced or done. I talk to friends about being an Advocate, and they say they could not do it.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a casa? Most rewarding?
I have these cases that get resolved but don’t feel like there’s a lasting solution. They disappear from your radar screen when the case closes, but you get a nagging feeling. You wonder if the changes last. You want to have happy endings and sometimes you feel like there is a happy ending, but you also worry about how it turned out in the long run. Poverty is a big issue. Drug addiction is a big issue. A lot of mental health issues. It’s just hard. These parents come from such challenging backgrounds. The family dysfunction continues and continues. The most rewarding part is that you feel like you’re making a difference. Even when I look back and think I could have done it better, I know that I made a difference.
What would you like the community to know about children in care?
The system works a lot better than I thought it did. When you read about the child welfare system in the press, it’s because something has gone terribly wrong. I’ve been impressed because the system is working. Having an active CASA in Montgomery County is a huge part of that system. A vast majority of the CPS caseworkers and other participants have big hearts and are working as hard as they can to help these kids. I’ve seen some awesome caseworkers, foster parents, and lawyers. The system works surprisingly well.
What have you learned about children in care?
I imagined it was tough for these kids, and that’s the reality. It surprises me how many kids show up in the system as part of a RAPR (Refusal to Assume Parental Responsibility) case. I didn’t know that before I joined CASA.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
When you see the hand of God working, it makes it worthwhile. You can’t see any way to move forward, then a minor miracle happens. The light shines, and there it is: the path to take.