When I retired after a career in plant management, I started looking for opportunities to volunteer. Seven years ago I read an article in the newspaper about CASA and thought it was a meaningful organizations and didn't require any prior legal knowledge. So I went through the training program.
Among the things I evaluated were:
1. My children are faced with situations stemming from their parent's poor choices and/or problems. (My wife and I have raised 4 children.)
2. The position of a CASA Volunteer requires an inordinate amount of listening and that turns into a need for a lot of detail writing.
Since I am a detail person and would rather listen than talk, it sounded like a natural fit (and it has been for the last 7 years). I find that it is important to allow all persons involved in the case to speak while I listen closely. I am concerned that any comments I might make or my interruptions will only take away or limit their thoughts. I am the reporter, not a counselor. In fact, listening to counselors and therapists is also important as I try to tie things together.
During the case, I become a cheerleader trying to encourage parents to complete the work that the court has outlined for them. I understand that my role is not to provide guidance or counseling to the child or family because psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors are needed to help them in this regard. As a team working together, we can provide a path for the family to grow. But the family must do their work and complete all of the tasks assigned by the Court. Checking on the family's progress toward completing their work is a primary function of the CASA Volunteer along with making sure the children are in a safe place and assuring them that they have someone on their side to ask questions and get answers.
My efforts culminate in reports that I write to the Court. I put together what I have learned by interacting with the family and backing it all up with the counselors' report and try to give an accurate view. This report includes a recommendation "in the best interest of the child (children)". Along the way, people may sometimes disagree and on rare occasion sometimes might disrespect me. I would rather see the mean-spirited person directing that energy toward me rather than a child. The Department of Child Services and the Judge have more experience and are subjected to laws and regulations.
At the end of a case, I must remind myself that the placement of the child is not always in a perfect family situation. The world itself is not a perfect place but if I can help a child by lifting a burden from him/her, I believe, I am successful. In several of the cases, I have been able to predict the outcomes early in the case. But in all the cases I have had so far, I can say that the child or children are in a better place when the case ended than when the case started.
I have been blessed with 11 cases and 26 children, so far.
Bob Blanton, CASA Volunteer