Volunteer Stories – the following are excerpts from our CASAs and Mentors (children’s names have been changed):
CASA Lynda Kirkpatrick – “Jill” age 2
Has your CASA experience been what you expected? I really didn’t have expectations. Well, maybe that isn’t quite true. I had hoped I could help a child and perhaps make a difference in their life. But I think this experience went well beyond what I hoped. I hadn’t expected it to affect me, but it has in a very positive way. I love doing this. I get back from these children and adults tenfold what I give. And I’ve made friends in the process. This experience and calling myself a CASA is a gift I can never repay.
CASA Lynell Ross – “Lisa” age 11
I think the most important part I played was being there for the (10-year-old) child when she was alone in the emergency room on a Friday night for hours, and then again when she was moved to a psychiatry hospital in Sacramento for a week. I was the only person to come and visit her. I stopped by her foster family and picked up clothes she needed, and helped her arrange her room at the hospital, talk to her and reassure her.
Also, they had her on anti-depressants for months and she was not getting consistent counseling because she was being moved from her Dad’s (who couldn’t deal with her), to foster parents, to group homes, to hospitals, and her meds were not being adjusted. At the team meeting for her, I spoke up and advocated for her to receive more consistent counseling and for her meds to be dialed back. I believed because CASA was involved with her social worker, we were able to get a smooth transition for her to be placed with her grandparents who had been estranged.
Overall, I think the most important part I played, as a CASA, was that she had a consistent adult in her life as she was shuffled around, to give her some comfort and hope.
CASA Bill Graham – “Ricky” age 16
I met with Ricky today for the official last time. I explained to him that my role as a CASA was officially closed and that I was proud of the progress he has made. Ricky responded by saying, “I hope this isn’t the last time I see you. You’re a friend but you’re also I lot more than just a friend. You’ve been in my life for 4 years and I think of you more than a friend.” I wasn’t expecting that from him!
CASA Diana Nyman – “Billy” age 2
Of the 5 CASA cases I have been assigned to, over an 8-year period, I believe in my heart that I made a “Potential” life changing difference in Billy’s life. When Billy was returned to his biological Mom/Dad at about 10 months old, I kept on the case, and after about 6 months, I felt something was “out of sync” with the parents getting drug tested regularly, which was a bi-weekly requirement for them.
I contacted my Case Supervisor Laurie about my intuition about the biological parents’ soberness, and Laurie got right on it. Laurie contacted the Social Worker, his supervisor, and I believe Billy’s attorney and said the CASA felt there were changes occurring. After about 3 to 4 weeks, and the biological Mother tested positive for drug use (required a second test for confirmation), Billy was immediately and removed (at night) from their apartment. There was a real concern that the biological Mom might “take” the child away to another location.
CASA Denise Kissack – “Tisha” age 14, “Denise” age 17
I feel the youth are put in such stressful situations, which are sometimes dangerous, and not their fault. They are scared, with sometimes no one to trust. So to be able to step in their lives and show them how important they really are, and build back up their confidence, and give them an adult to trust means a lot. CASA/Sleep Train grants helped both of my girls; with the help of a grant one got to join her school basketball team, which helped her self-esteem, and she made all new friends. She really came out of her shell being on a team and depending on each other. My favorite event was when she got to earn her laptop (through funding provided by the Placer Community Foundation), by doing 10 hours of community service. She was very proud of herself and loves her very own laptop.
CASA Natalie Trost – “Wendy” age 16
I had to explain to Wendy that her guardianship was going to be given to her foster parents and that her parents were relinquishing their parental rights. I told her that this was a reflection of the greatest kind of love. I told her that this was a sacrifice for her parent. I hoped that one day she could understand that they loved her enough to sacrifice their own happiness to ensure that she could have what they could not give to her. I explained to her that her parents understood that she and her brother needed a loving and stable environment in order to be happy and healthy. Not the inconsistencies of life with people trying to recover from drug addiction.
CASA Marcia Haus – “Chris” age 2
I think the adoptive parents don’t want to believe that the child they are adopting who was born addicted (and they think is perfect) could have long-term health issues. I continually advocate for them to pay attention and to consult their health care professional when they are concerned about something that might not seem normal or could be concerning. I explain that early intervention is very important and it is better to be safe than sorry. This has been an issue in most of my cases. There have been problems with some of these babies with failure to thrive, speech delay and tremors. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem the health care providers relate any of these issues (except possibly tremors) to the fact the baby was born addicted. They seem to indicate that they really just don’t know short and long term effects of drug addiction in babies.
CASA Kathy Kennedy – “Jill” age 16
Jill was provided with a laptop to assist with school work in exchange for 10 volunteer hours (through PCF grant). Youth received CASA/Sleep Train funds for driver’s education with All Star Driving school. Our favorite activity came towards the end of the case when through the help of my manager, we were able to obtain a professional maternity photo shoot. I took the best photos and put together a photo book through Shutterfly. Jill felt very important and loved, certainly a good memory of her CASA experience. We also loved hiking together. She loved the outdoors, something not available to her with her family. We also visited C Horse Ranch where she volunteered years before. She was very close to the owner. Many old friends she had not seen in some time still worked there. Jill was beaming when she left and also got reacquainted with some of her favorite horses. We drove her old neighborhood enabling her to recollect happier times in her childhood.
CASA Nancy Smith – “Grace” age 18
Once I obtained the Educational Rights for Grace and we talked through her options and obstacles and worked regularly with the school, her GPA went from under a 3.0 to a 3.25. Grace was earning A’s and B’s and no longer failing classes and giving up. It took a team of adults to help support her and she felt empowered to get the help she needed to be successful. She didn’t allow her anxiety to control her, she learned to work with her team of support to get her through her stressful times.
Sleep Train funds enabled Grace to get her driving permit! It took Grace a long while to get through the online classes and pass the written DMV test, but she did it! She has had her first behind the wheel training as well. The instructor told Grace, “You are a natural.” That one statement gave Grace all the confidence in the world to continue learning to drive. When she finally gets her license, she will soon gain more independence to become a productive adult, allowing her to attend college and work.
CASA Karen Salem – “Carlos” age 13
I had asked what sport he wanted to play. After a few months, Carlos told me specifically he wanted to play football for a certain junior league. I made that happen by getting support from NREFM and his Social Worker. I then applied for CASA/Sleep Train funds. His family could not have afforded this activity. He was so happy and very committed to his team. He insisted on arriving to practice 30 minutes early, was very disciplined and as a result became the best player on the team according to his coach.
Mentor Pat Bomberger – “Kevin” age 17
Hi Don, I just want you to know about another success story of the good the Youth Mentor program does: the young man I worked with since he was 9 years old, Kevin, graduated, ON TIME, last Friday night at Lincoln High. Unfortunately, I wasn’t working with him in his senior year, but every adult at LHS, from the principal on down, made sure Kevin would succeed. Kevin didn’t know I was at the graduation, but it brought a tear to my eye when I saw him get his diploma. I did get to see him, just by chance, at his home last Sunday when I dropped off a “Congratulations!” card. Boy, did I cry when I gave him a hug! He’s a good young man!
CASA Deanne Wertin – “Brenda” age 16
I am grateful to have Benda in my life. She’s taught me so much about the power of connection and it’s humbling to see her resiliency. I’m excited for her future.