September 2022 Advocate Spotlight: Cheryl Baehr
We invite you to meet Cheryl Baehr, nominated by Case Supervisor Kristy O’Neal.
“Cheryl has been with us since 2014 and has been assigned to 12 cases,” Kristy said. “She is especially strong in educational and medical advocacy, which is sometimes hard for Advocates. She is consistent in meeting her minimum expectations without reminders. Cheryl gets an A-plus for documentation. She takes advantage of many CASA training opportunities.”
We asked Cheryl to share about her experiences as an Advocate.
Is there anything unique about your background that contributes to your approach to advocacy?
Originally from Buffalo, New York, I moved to Spring in 1993. My three children graduated from Klein ISD. I worked as a teacher for 20 years in Klein ISD and in Cy-Fair ISD at the elementary school level in General Education and Special Education. My heart is in Special Education because each little step we accomplish is a big step for the child.
How did you become interested in volunteering as AN aDVOCATE?
I was looking for options to continue working to benefit children in need as a volunteer, and I heard about CASA in Harris County. My husband and I moved to Montgomery County in 2010, and I saw a roadside billboard that advertised CASA of Montgomery County. I took Advocate training the summer of 2014 and planned on taking my first case after I retired in January of 2015. However, after training I was hooked, and I took my first case right away. Almost nine years later, I am still hooked on the children and their families in need, as well as the professional, knowledgeable, and friendly staff at CASA!
Did you have any reservations about volunteering?
I had no experience with CASA, CPS, or court reports and hearings, so that was somewhat intimidating for me. Having a CASA Supervisor and the whole CASA staff behind me helped me through any uncertainties along the way!
Explain in your own words the work you do as a CASA aDVOCATE. Why is it important for a child in care?
It’s my responsibility to oversee, as best I can, the welfare of the child/children in my case and work toward solutions when concerns arise. To me, this means working as a team with the associated parties, including CASA Supervisors, CPS workers, parents, families, foster parents, medical providers, teachers, lawyers, and sometimes RTC staff. My goals include keeping in touch with everyone involved with the child, keeping records of the progress being made with the child and the family, and maintaining good professional relationships with all. We could call ourselves “the umbrella” under which the facets of each child’s care are monitored, coordinated, and adjusted.
I have also had the privilege and challenge of serving on the Education Committee for two years. This means working with a variety of CASA staff and educators to help Advocates who requested educational support for their cases. In addition, our committee presented information about forming an Education Committee to other CASA groups from Texas at a conference in Galveston.
What has surprised you most about your aDVOCACY work?
Initially, what surprised me most was the friendly professionalism of the CASA staff. When Advocates got together for meetings, the supervisors were always supportive and showed appreciation of their volunteers. Professional development is a major part of our work. Even when I felt intimidated by mediations, court reports, and hearings, I was put at ease by the preparation from the staff.
What has been the most difficult aspect of being a casa? Most rewarding?
The most difficult aspect of volunteering as an Advocate has been situations where contacts have been made and relationships have been built, but changes in the child’s placement or other providers occur and consistency is lost. This is detrimental to the child and takes the case back to square one as far as information and contact with associated parties are concerned. The most rewarding aspect is seeing a family reunited and using the resources they have been given to establish a better family unit.
What would you like the community to know about children in care?
I would like the community to know how much effort CASA, CPS, and the courts put into helping families who want to work hard to regain their family unit. I would like the community to realize the amount of support the children from hard places and their families need, and how easy it is from them to give this support in a variety of ways. These children did not ask to be in the position they are in, and many have overcome the odds and become successful as Advocates for foster children like themselves.
What have you learned about children in care?
Children in care live with trauma that affects them for the rest of their life. The trauma can range from staying with kinship care and being returned to parents in a year to being in care for years with no placement or family ties and being released from care to the streets at age 18 with no support. Much more needs to be done to support these children and their families at an early stage in order to help the families remain together.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you?
The moments of advocacy I won’t forget are the moments in court at the end of the cases when the judge awarded a child back to the custody of their parents, congratulated the family, and led the court in clapping to celebrate their efforts!