Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Am For The Child

CASA {Court Appointed Special Advocate}: noun A volunteer who wants to make certain the voices of abused and neglected children are heard.  CASA volunteers get to know the child and speak to everyone involved in the child’s life, including their family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers, and others.The information they gather and their recommendations help the court make informed decisions. CASA volunteers commit to a child until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.

18 months ago I sat in an IEP meeting with a mom who didn't feel it was necessary for her to be there, as she believed it was the school's responsibility to provide her son the proper special education without any of her involvement {either at home or at school}; and did not have the tools to navigate her way through an IEP to ensure her son was in the appropriate placement with all of the necessary resources in place. I sat in the IEP meeting fighting with all of my might to have the child removed from the classroom setting he was currently in where he  was separated from the rest of the class, on a modified schedule {only attending class 2 1/2 hours a day, as a first grader}, and spending a majority of that time in an isolated padded room. My heart ached, and my eyes filled up with tears as this child was labeled and had no one to stand up for him and BE HIS VOICE.

Last month I attended an IEP meeting with a proactive mom, who took initiative and asked questions, did what she could to ensure her son had a successful year at school.  I attended the meeting with a joyful heart and tears in my eyes, as I listened to the teacher speak of a boy who was attending school on a regular, full day schedule, showed huge improvements in his test results, was a part of the class, and called his classmates friends. 

The same mom and child attended both IEP meetings...

I AM the voice of the child
I AM the one who sees the confident, beautiful, intelligent individual that is the mom on my case
I AM the one who knows, without a doubt, that mom loves her children.  She may not have all of the tools and resources to be the most effective parent, but she is learning, and her love for them grows daily
I AM the one who ensures the children receive proper medical care
I AM the one who sees the good in EVERY situation
I AM the one who knows its in the best interest for the children to stay placed with their mom
I AM the one who ensures everyone else sees the positive in  mom and every situation, when it is very easy to remain focused on the negative 
I AM the one who attends school meetings, doctors appointments, etc to speak on behalf of the children, in their best interest; and provide mom the tools to navigate through all of this on her own.  
I AM the one who is greeted with a huge hug & smile, and a proud, "This is my CASA!!!" when I observe in the classroom. 
I AM the one who now realizes that my standard of living is different from theirs, and that  it is okay.  It does not mean mom loves her children any less.
I AM the one who assists mom in seeking out opportunities, such as summer camp, for her children. 
*each case is unique, and the above statements are my personal opinion and only apply to the case I was just assigned to

Whitney Houston said it best, "I believe the children are our them all the beauty they possess inside...give them a sense of pride."

As a CASA I give children strength when they are weak, a voice when they can't speak, eyes when they can't see.  I see the best there is in them. I lift them up when they can't reach, I give them faith because I believe.

Becoming a CASA has been the most challenging, but also most rewarding leap of faith I have taken.  As one door closes, another one opens; my first CASA case has officially "closed," but I will always be their CASA and am excited to see, and be a part of, all of the wonderful things to come for them. 

Click here to learn more about CASA and find a CASA organization near you. 

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome!! That would be such a rewarding job and would be great to see how your work impacts a child so greatly. A child's future is so important, and we need more people like you.