Last month marked my tenth year of working in child welfare. An anniversary that seems both monumental, but also insignificant as after all these years the work continues to build. I have been reflecting recently on the last ten years and the hundreds of children I have met. I can’t help but remember some of the heartbreak, the trauma, and the horrific abuse and/or neglect these children went through. While there is so much sadness in child welfare, there is also hope. Hope that a child will have a better future, that the cycle of abuse and neglect will be broken and hope that a family will be strengthened. Hope, that I believe, can be brought to a difficult situation by one dedicated and caring adult.
Looking back, it is clear to me that children involved in the child welfare system are more successful when they have that dedicated and caring adult in their lives. That person may be a CASA, a foster parent, an attorney or a DFCS case manager. A person who consistently spends time with the child and checks on them regularly, who advocates for things the child needs and wants. Someone who won’t give up on that child, no matter how difficult the situation may be. Someone who will remain consistently involved for the entirety of the child welfare case, which can take multiple years. The importance of a commitment to remaining involved with a child consistently cannot be overstated. Children experiencing foster care frequently see changes in other adults in their lives -- such as teachers when they change schools, caregivers when they change placements and DFCS case managers due to turn over.
I am incredibly lucky to have spent the last two years of my career with Hall-Dawson CASA where I have been able to witness first hand many dedicated and caring advocates be the person who makes a difference to these children. The CASA who answers a teenager’s phone calls multiple nights a week. The CASA who calls the child every time their parent doesn’t show up for a visit. The CASA who is a cheerleader for not only the child, but also for the parent who is working so hard to overcome addiction. The CASA who helps a teenager fill out their first job application. The CASA who continues to show up- at the child’s home, school, basketball games and recitals.
Our advocates do many amazing things for the children we serve. They advocate for the child’s educational, medical and mental health needs. They advocate for services for the child and the parents. They help locate extra-curricular activities and camps so the children can have as normal a childhood as possible under their unique circumstances. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing a CASA does for a child is to keep showing up and being a dedicated and caring person in the child’s life. As I reflect over my ten years in child welfare, these are the things that inspire me the most.