Throughout my life I’ve learned a ton of useful lessons.The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that the best results come from leading with intention, integrity and intelligence. Knowing what your purpose is, being honest and genuine in your relationships and actions, and continuing to learn and apply the knowledge you obtain will allow you to show up as your best self without sacrificing who you are or what you’re here to do.
This sounds like a simple master key, but it took me some time to really get down and it still takes continuous practice. I see myself as an ever-evolving student of life. Sometimes that can be an overwhelming feeling, but mostly it allows me to remain present and committed.
After settling back in Savannah during the pandemic and before joining Brightside, I made the intention to involve myself within the community through volunteering and supporting various efforts and events. I knew I wanted to connect with the youth and their families. With that intention, I was able to make lasting connections with people I will be working alongside for years to come. This same intention is what led me to Brightside.
I am honored to have the position of Community Outreach Coordinator because it allows me to do what I love most, help inform and bring the community together. During my first weeks I quickly knew I wanted to volunteer to be a CASA. It just made sense to remain in grassroots work that makes such a direct impact in children’s lives. As someone who has had to navigate several systems, I know firsthand how vital it is to have the right information and the right people in your corner. In my opinion, it is the most effective way to combat hardships in life and why I’m sure I will enjoy being a resource for youth and their families. My intention with all that I do is to share the information I’ve gathered and be an advocate for those who need it.
I treat these relationships and this opportunity with great integrity because that’s what’s required to build strong foundations. I admire how we all show up and are willing and committed to serve. This work is truly rewarding and allows you to recognize the humanity in each and every person involved. Both adults and children are doing the best with what they have.
Becoming a CASA and learning more about the ins and outs of these cases has helped me consider the full capacity it takes to work within these systems efficiently. Understanding this, I challenge us all to come into each space with grace for one another and the intention to work towards a greater good using our intelligence and standing strong within our integrity. Together we can continue to make change.
About the Author
Jalecia Quarterman is a Savannah native and graduate of Georgia Southern University with her Bachelor's in Psychology and minor in Childhood and Family Development. Most of her work and volunteer time has been with nonprofits that focus on helping youth and their communities. She's always had a passion for advocating and forward progression and believes the most effective way for change is to lead by example. With this mindset she fits right in with the team at Brightside as the new Community Outreach Coordinator. She is excited to put her grassroots experience to the test by actively engaging and informing the community. Outside of service, she enjoys relaxing with her dog and practicing mindfulness through journaling, stretching and reflecting.
I recently began working as our Administrative Assistant and Training & Recruitment Specialist at Brightside Advocacy. As the Training & Recruitment Specialist, I get to do one of my favorite things: prospective CASA volunteer interviews. Through the interview process, I am always curious to learn why prospects pursue this kind of volunteer work. What drives a person to pursue a volunteer experience that may be emotionally draining, potentially stressful, and at times, frustrating? While I cannot answer for others, I can tell you why I chose this kind of work.
Before joining the Brightside staff, I was a CASA volunteer. I swore in October 2019. Reflecting on the last three years, I am reminded why I became a CASA volunteer.
My story: On a weeknight in April 2019, I was working on homework (did I mention that I was finishing my master’s degree while doing CASA training and working full time?!). Anyway, I took a quick break to scroll through my phone and stumbled upon an article about a little girl who was fatally abused by her caregivers. While this wasn’t my first time learning about child abuse and neglect, this time, I was deeply impacted by this little girl’s story. At that moment, empathy and action were aligned within me. I wanted to do something about the anger, sadness, and powerlessness I felt. Soon after that experience, I attended a CASA volunteer information session and began the application process. I remember both nervousness and excitement sitting in my chest. I was nervous about this new experience but excited that I was actively pursuing child advocacy. Even after I swore in, I was still afraid of the unknown. I was filled with thoughts like, “what if I mess up?” or “I’m not a legal expert,” and so on. However, my desire to change a child’s story outweighed my fears. Additionally, I was surrounded by support from my advocacy coordinator and the CASA team.
We tend to think that the presence of fear indicates that we are doing something harmful. While I agree that fear can be a protective warning, it may also present itself when we are doing something unfamiliar to us. Throughout my life, I have learned that taking action is the only way to ease nerves and abate fear. Many of us want to live more confident lives, but to gain confidence, we must grow- which can be scary. Had I given in to the fears surrounding CASA-volunteer-unknowns, I would not have taken the first step. As I consider my story, I see that my compassion trumped my fears.
What about you? Maybe you’re a volunteer who can relate to my story. Perhaps you know someone who wants to volunteer, but fear is getting in the way. In this instance, I would say that fear may be a taste of the unknown. I hope that your desire to change a child’s story outshines your fears.
Become a CASA volunteer today. Learn more.
About the Author
When I was asked to join other staff members for the CASA National Convention in Seattle, I was so honored. I did not know what to expect but was happy to participate and get to know some other members better. Little did I know how much it would affect me and help me better understand how important CASA's work is around the country.
Hundreds of volunteers and staff gathered to network, meet inspirational speakers, and attend small workshops of our choosing. There were times when the information we learned and the stories we listened to would move us to tears. We listened to the plights, problems, and solutions CASA's all over this country experience in their attempts to better the cases of the children they work with, including my home state of Mississippi and other counties in Georgia.
Overall, I felt a deeper sense of purpose in my volunteer work with CASA. I recently found a pad of paper from the Hyatt we stayed in Seattle. I used it to make notes while in my breakout sessions. One speaker really moved me, and I wrote down the take-a-way of what he tried to convey to us:
"You have one life.
How will you live it?
To elevate others?
Or diminish them?
Bring them up?
Or put them down?
Lend a hand?
Or walk away? Speak….?
It spoke volumes about those that work with CASA. We choose to DO.
Shelley Smith swore in as a CASA volunteer in October 2020. She won a fundraising competition with the grand prize of a trip to Seattle for the National CASA conference.
Shelley is a local artist, a gourmet cook, and one of the coolest people you will ever meet. Originally from Mississippi, Shelley chose to make Savannah her home and we are incredibly grateful for that.
When I learned I would be interning with Brightside Child and Family Advocacy (Brightside) this summer, I prepared in the best way I thought possible. I researched the child welfare system, trying to get a basic understanding of everything from juvenile court proceedings to foster care placements. I tried to understand how children were supposed to be protected and guided into a safe and loving home.
Once in Savannah, I learned that none of that really mattered. Looking at what’s on paper could only go so far. Luckily, I had the valuable opportunity to get in the room, watch, and listen.
I know not everyone has the privilege of doing that, so let me tell you what I learned.
I saw how Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS) court proceedings can be infinitely more complex than other cases. Just looking at the number of attorneys in the room was overwhelming: one for the child, one for a parent, one for DFCS, one for foster parents or relatives…the list could stretch on forever. I saw how a child’s voice could so easily be drowned out - until it was time to call upon their CASA. If there’s one thing I remember, it’s the passion CASAs and their Brightside team have for ensuring that each child gets the loving home they deserve.
I heard the love parents had for their children. A rampant misconception surrounding parents of children in foster care is that they have so terribly mistreated their children that they are incapable of a nurturing, healthy relationship with a child. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many parents have experienced trauma, have substance abuse disorders, or have been in foster care themselves without a model of healthy family dynamics. Their failures as parents are not for lack of love for their children, and they feel attacked and judged after having their children taken away. I have seen how, with support, parents can be reunified with children in a safe and stable home. Fortunately, this outcome is in the majority.
I saw the challenges DFCS faces in helping children. They are underfunded and understaffed. Many caseworkers handle over 30 cases at a time and can’t give each child the attention they so deserve. I vividly remember sitting in the DFCS office as a caseworker said three children could not be returned to their mother because services had not been put in place to support them. I was confused. Wasn’t putting those services in place DFCS’ job? They certainly don’t have the resources to sufficiently do so for every child, but this doesn’t mean inadequate support can be allowed. It means that somebody else must step in to ensure it happens.
I came to understand the extent of reunification’s benefits. I think the importance of Brightside's Visitation Center - The Bright House - can be hard to understand and appreciate at first, especially with minimal understanding of the child welfare system. My appreciation for it grew exponentially throughout the summer. How can parents build real relationships with their children sitting in a DFCS office or Chuck-E-Cheese? Reunification is a goal seldom achieved without support, and quality visitation between parents and children is the number one indicator of achieving permanent reunification between children and parents.
I’ve seen that little is ever as it seems or is supposed to be. Research can’t tell you about the child who writes his mom’s phone number down every time he moves to a new foster home so that he or she doesn’t forget it. It can’t describe the pain and despair in a parent’s voice as they try to heal their family but feel unheard. It can’t measure the hope around a mother baking cookies with her children while she works to get them back.
About the Author
When I became a CASA, I wanted to give a voice to the children who were in the care of the state. I know personally what it’s like to be in a courtroom and have everyone talking for you, but not having anyone asking what you want. I wanted to be the person who speaks up for the child.
Now as a CASA for almost two years, I have had the opportunity to work with several youths. These children, as well as the whole process, have taught me a lot. I learned quickly that I needed to work on my case as soon as I got it. I learned to read through all of the court orders, any medical documentations and any notes that I received from other service providers. In a few cases, I found that the children had medical needs that may not have been properly addressed. This gave me a starting point in my advocacy and gave me a good way to learn about the child and some of the issues that brought them into the state’s care.
After reading through all the documentation, I met with my child. I learned that initially, they were wary of me. These children have had to deal with moving from their families, possibly having their case managers changed, and maybe even spending time in the Regional Youth Detention Center. But once they saw that I was a consistent person working for them to have their best life going forward, they opened up. I listened carefully and made sure that I asked follow-up questions. Some of the children are amazing poets and like to dance!
For my kids who were living in group homes, I developed a relationship with the Human Services Professional and Program Manager. These professionals have insight into what the child is going through daily, and if any problems arise in their behavior, they will contact the CASA immediately. In one of my cases, the Program Manager called me whenever the child had a bad day at school or during a home visit. This allowed me the opportunity to alert everyone on the case about incidences in the child’s life that they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
In the beginning, talking to the parents of the child was difficult. At times, they didn’t trust me and they wouldn’t return my calls. In some situations, I had my children who were in contact with their parents reach out on my behalf to open the lines of communication. I started by explaining that I am a volunteer and explained carefully what I can and cannot do.
I have learned to established a relationship with the Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) Case Managers and, if applicable, the Probation Officers. I have had wonderful relationships with my Case Managers. Together, we would conduct joint virtual visits with kids. I have witnessed the emancipation process and we would inform each other about home visits that we had conducted. The Probation Officers are also helpful because they see the children often. While the child may not talk with them much, they can alert you to any abnormal behavior which I could address the next time I met with my child.
Even with all this support, things don’t always go as planned. Through experience, I learned to be sure that I had a backup plan if the original doctor you wanted the child to see isn’t taking new patients, or the visitation schedule isn’t working the way everyone thought it would. At each step, I explained everything to my child and worked through their feelings about unpredicted changes.
And through all the ups and downs, I kept my Coordinator informed. Sometimes, I called my Coordinator just to vent. Other times I called him to figure out the best move going forward. Vent to them if you need, because the CASA Coordinators are the go-to resource if there are any problems in your case. And most importantly, they are there to help you celebrate your successes.
Being a CASA has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have witnessed a non-verbal autistic child say my nickname. I was on hand when a teen stopped getting into fights at home and school and started to dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. And I was able to assist a child who had left residential placements to reunite with her mother.
Being a CASA sometimes means becoming the parent, aunt, uncle, sister, or brother that the child needs. When you advocate on their behalf, you are giving them a chance to become more than their current situation. You are giving them hope.
My first two years at CASA have been spent almost entirely on one case. Just last month, it finally closed, and had a very happy ending. To briefly sum up the case, a baby had been removed from his mother’s care immediately after being born, and remained in the hospital for the first month of his life until the grandmother was awarded temporary custody.
At first, I thought this would be a fairly simple, open and shut case because he was already placed with family, had a loving grandmother willing to be his guardian, and she was already the guardian of his older half sister. But I was wrong.
The justice system is slow and complex, even when a child seems to be in the ideal scenario, and this case was especially slow due to a high turnover of DFACs (Department of Family and Child Services) caseworkers, which resulted in X different caseworkers just on this case over the last two years. Every time the case was handed over to a new caseworker, it pushed the process back.
Information was lost, misinformation was passed along, numbers changed, hearings were rescheduled, and so on. What’s already a confusing and foreign process for most families became even more difficult to track. But this is where I, as the CASA, was able to be the one constant person in this family and child’s life throughout the process. And my role was huge.
When the grandmother wasn’t sure who to turn to, she reached out to me. When the mother didn’t know what her case plan was, she reached out to me. When the caseworker changed for the first, second, and third time, they all reached out to me.
CASAs are so much more than just an advocate for the child. They’re the support for everyone who loves that child as well. They’re the liaison between the complicated justice system and the families. Our job isn’t just to check-in and report, it’s to gather information on BOTH sides of the case, and communicate with both sides.
I found myself reporting more to the family than I did to the court. Because so much was happening behind the scenes, it was hard for them - grandma and mom - to keep up with dates, plans, evaluations, phone numbers, doctors appointments, etc. In a process that is often chaotic, emotional, scary and uncertain for many families and children, CASA can act as the one constant support throughout the case. I understand now just how important the role of a CASA is, and that what is required may vary from case to case, child to child.
Even though the case is closed, and there couldn’t have been a better outcome, I still speak to the grandmother, now the permanent guardian, on a regular basis. We’ve developed a genuine friendship and respect for one another over the last two years, and I look forward to seeing the child grow. I think the takeaway here is that every case is going to have its challenges, and the process is unpredictable. This is why it is so important that the CASA be the one person the family can rely on.
About the Author
Since 1991, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) has served thousands of children who entered foster care due to abuse or neglect from their biological families. As of today, there are over 150 CASA volunteers who, remarkably, give freely of their time and talents to help the vulnerable child through this difficult period. For the superlative work by staff and volunteers alike, Chatham County/Savannah CASA has been honored as Best CASA in Georgia.
Our Dream – Tackle the Glaring Gap in Service:
Supervised visitation is a mid-way step in the foster care process that is ordered by the Courts to begin reunification between the biological family and their child. During the months, and sometimes years, a child is in foster care, research has demonstrated that parents and children benefit from quality time to “start-over” and learn new skills as a family. This is crucial to strengthening parent-child attachments and decreasing the child’s sense of abandonment. Family visitation time is linked to improving a child’s well-being such as spending less time in out-of-home care and faster reunification with the biological parents.
Sadly, Chatham County has one of the largest populations of children in foster care outside of Greater Atlanta. In 2021, there were 102 children entering foster care and an average daily number of 360 children (!), a number comprising all children still in care over multiple years. Though recognized as crucial to family-child success, Chatham County had no Visitation Center. But with vision, inspiration, devotion, and dogged fundraising, the CASA team opened The Bright House on February 14, 2022, and actualized this dream. Chatham County has its first Family Visitation Center.
Now the Hard Work
A child coming into foster care is often the vulnerable recipient of deep-seated generational trauma. The causes may be a parent’s mental health instability, stressors due to poverty, or multiple factors combined, at times expressed by substance use. The Bright House’s goal is to help parents start to confront the underlying causes of family dysfunction and begin to heal so that their child can return home. This is hard, uphill work on the part of the parents, the child, and the professional team of The Bright House. Typically, approximately 50 percent of the children who enter foster care in Chatham County are reunified with their parents. The Bright House team hopes to raise this percentage and achieve the ideal outcome for more and more children – reunification with the biological family.
Since opening our doors, The Bright House has already served over 40 family members and completed 44 supervised visits. We strongly believe – and research verifies - that this one-on-one support increases the chance that families are reunited. In our safe and warm environment, families begin to create new memories and rebuild trust and bonds.
Our Community Came Together:
Thank you to all our dedicated stakeholders, volunteers, and families for trusting us to close this service gap in the foster care system. As we know from years of successful CASA work, our supportive community is motivated by the deeply held beliefs that children are our future and deserve their best shot to succeed in life. This year, CASA evolved to be Brightside Child and Family Advocacy. We stand poised to make a new and significant contribution to the well-being of children and their families.
About the Author
Thirteen years ago, Lucille Jackson was a dynamic CASA advocate. She would often take more than five cases at that time! Ms. Jackson stepped aside from advocacy for a while. But on March 27, 2019, Ms. Jackson swore in with the Juvenile Court a second time. Excited to get back to the challenging but deeply meaningful work, Ms. Jackson accepted the case of Baby Rose.
Rose and her mother had both tested positive for an illegal substance at the baby's birth. Unfortunately, in addition to substance use disorder, Rose's mother struggled with schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety, a combination of obstacles that prevented her from caring for Rose.
Diving into this time-sensitive case, Ms. Jackson used her deep reservoir of experience and skills to connect with Rose's mother, relatives, caseworkers, foster parents, and all involved with Baby Rose's wellbeing. She drove more than two hours to the foster home to assess Rose's stability and progress monthly. Ms. Jackson respectfully observed Rose and her mother during the court-ordered supervised visitations. Additionally, Ms. Jackson conducted careful research and gathered substantive information to develop her clear recommendations for her CASA report submitted to the Juvenile Court Judge. Ms. Jackson identified recommendations for Rose's placement, health, development, and a visitation schedule with Rose's mother. She recommended tangible steps among a myriad of support services for Rose's mother to become a successful parent.
Rose's mother sincerely strived to implement her case plan for the first year. Unfortunately, the arduous steps to reunification were overwhelming, and she abruptly left treatment. Thinking always of Baby Rose's circle of support, Ms. Jackson pivoted to the new problem. She called around to the family's relatives, the mother's previous employer, and even drove through her old neighborhood to speak with neighbors. Ms. Jackson could not find Rose's mother. After several months, the caseworker heard from Rose's mother. Despite her love for Rose, her mother would not continue working towards reunification.
Over the past three years, Ms. Jackson has continued to advocate for Rose. Fortunately, Rose has been in the same foster home since entering care. Ms. Jackson enjoys a beautiful relationship with this family. As a genuinely positive development for Rose, her foster family plans to adopt her. Even with the barriers imposed by Covid, Ms. Jackson continues to support Rose both virtually and in person.
To this day, Ms. Jackson regularly looks for Rose's mother when she drives around her old areas in town. Lucille Jackson is a tenacious and tireless advocate for Baby Rose. But she shows deep compassion for Rose's mother, too, hoping someday that opportunities may turn her life around, as well.
About the Author
The sunlight filtered through the trees on Monterey Square, illuminating the brick path in front of me. It was August 2018, and as I left the old CASA office, I took a photo of the path and the sun peeking delicately between the Spanish moss and branches. I walked confidently down that straight path, prepared to be a change agent, one child at a time.
My decision to become a CASA Volunteer grew over time. In 1995, I graduated with my M.S. in social work. I began working with people with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and various mental illnesses. I witnessed first-hand abuse and learned to navigate a government system full of red tape. This is when I first heard of CASA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate - a person who advocates for the best interest of a child in foster care. A seed was planted in my heart.
After my son was born, I moved to part-time. Two years later, our twin daughters were born. My husband’s career began to take off, resulting in 11 career moves. We decided it was best I stayed home with the children, which was no easy task. I became an expert at investigating communities, school systems, doctors, and relocating our family quickly through the years. When the twins were in first grade, we learned that one was on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. Although I suspected the diagnosis, it was difficult to accept. But it was a relief to finally have answers. Now I had a path to follow.
I became a fierce advocate for my daughter. Each move brought new challenges as I transitioned each child into a new environment. I quickly noticed that not every child has a parent who knows how to advocate. It was evident that children with hidden disabilities, such as autism, easily slip through the cracks and do not receive services to succeed.
Bloom Where You Are Planted
Remember the “CASA seed” planted 20 years ago? In July 2018, we were again uprooted and replanted in Savannah. As a social worker, I wanted to be of service to others. I recalled my love of CASA’s mission and soon discovered Savannah CASA. Before I finished unpacking the boxes, I had filled out an application.
My journey as a CASA brings paths, seeds, and flowers to mind. Unlike that straight, sunlit path that welcomed me after I first left the CASA office, the path of a Volunteer is not always well lit. As Volunteers, we press on because we see narrow rays of sunlight. We tend to our relationships with the CASA children. We plant seeds in compacted soil, and we find ways to allow struggling roots to push through and grow into a world where a child has acceptance and belonging.
As a CASA Volunteer, I have advocated for four children in three years. My last two children were commercially sexually exploited. They participate in HOPE Court (Healing Opportunities Through Positive Empowerment) - a new, incentive-based court for youth experiencing commercial exploitation. During the first year of HOPE court, a team of exceptional individuals worked tirelessly cultivating the seeds, adding the right combination of nutrients to grow a program that flourishes. The challenges I faced were beyond anything I experienced as a social worker. Donning my most durable garden gloves, I started digging and sifting through the weeds to learn anything and everything I could about my CASA children and their families. During the hardships, I have never felt alone because I am blessed with the support of an exceptional CASA team and a wonderful, patient, and knowledgeable Coordinator. We walked along this new path, learning the twists and turns together.
Remember that straight, sunlit path that welcomed me to my CASA journey? COVID has forced a reevaluation of my life’s purpose, and I was led into new shifts of direction along the path I was walking. My love of volunteering has never wavered. I remind myself that I am making a difference. In the Fall of 2021, an opportunity was presented to transition from CASA Volunteer to CASA Staff. Yet I paused. Much of my time has been devoted to supporting my children and aging parents; I had to really think about accepting a position after twenty years away from the workplace. The big hesitation? As a Volunteer, I advocated for my two girls in HOPE Court, and I was unwilling to walk away from these relationships. I wondered if I could be both a Volunteer and Coordinator? As a Coordinator, I wouldn’t have direct contact with children and families. Yet I understood that I could impact many more children by guiding and supporting multiple volunteers. Upon reflection, I accepted the position and started walking a new path.
Together, my Volunteers and I find answers and solutions. We plant seeds in the lives of children in the hope that one day they will remember the CASA who advocated for their best interest and will grow into adults who will plant seeds of hope in others.
I am reminded of a recent walk along the beach as I write this blog. There, I noticed flowers growing from a fallen tree. Among the driftwood from hurricane damage, life emerged in an unusual place. As a Volunteer and now as a Coordinator, my goal is to scatter seeds of hope in children’s lives, our community, and other Volunteers’ lives.
I am an advocate for CASA. I plant seeds because you never know where a flower may bloom.
About the Author
My Expectations. When I imagined being a CASA, my dream was to form a meaningful relationship with a child in crisis who needed an encouraging friend. I would be someone who really knew them and be their support during a stressful time. I believed that I could make a difference, even if I didn't understand all aspects of the child welfare system. I would study, take notes, and learn. I would ensure that my child would get everything needed after being removed from the only home they have known.
I had heard that "the system is broken" my whole life. I believed I found the perfect way to be a part of the solution and make a difference from the inside. I imagined deep conversations with my child as I told stories of my own childhood and how I enjoyed outings for ice cream on special days to celebrate. As I went through CASA training, I couldn't wait to meet the child I would get to know and love. I would earn their trust with tender smiles and soft, kind words full of hope.
The Journey Begins. Then I was assigned my first case. I certainly never expected to be given a sibling group of three special needs, non-verbal children, one of whom we discovered later was nearly deaf. I thought, "Okay, how am I going to have deep conversations with these children and learn how they feel? How can I explain what is going on when they don't have language or cognitive ability to understand the situation?"
What I had imagined was nowhere close to reality. I began to think of creative ways to spend non-verbal time with the children during our monthly visits. Stickers, paper crafts, picture books, and playing catch with a big bouncy ball took the place of heart-to-heart talks. I discovered that smiles and fist-bumps will transcend language barriers.
Committed and Caring Adults. Since I could not speak with the children, I talked to their foster mom and other significant adults in the children's lives. This included their DFCS case manager, teachers, behavioral aids, interpreters, occupational and speech therapists, transporters, audiologists, psychologists, doctors, and dentists. Most of these adults will temporarily be in their lives, and some will be more consistent. In short, there are A LOT of new grownups in their lives, and A LOT of big changes since they came into care. I was committed to figuring it all out.
Above all, I am grateful for the faithfulness of their foster mother. Taking good care of children with special needs 24/7 would be difficult for anyone, but she is fiercely dedicated to providing stability and consistency. They have developed and grown because of her enduring love and care. I know that sometimes foster children get moved around or even separated from their siblings, causing more trauma. However, "my" kids have been allowed the necessary time to heal and learn. Foster parents like her are the world's true heroes. She has shown me what it really means to love.
I am determined to be consistent in the children's lives. As a CASA, I will have this case as long as they are in foster care. We may not have meaningful talks, but I believe they know I am on their side. And I've not given up on the hope of conversations yet! As they are being taught ASL, I am learning sign language myself. Now, my dreams include giving sign language explanations when they don't understand and, importantly, asking them directly about their needs and hopes. Only God knows what I will do with this new skill. These special children have taught me how to change my expectations when necessary. I have reaped benefits that I couldn't even imagine.
I also have deep gratitude for the juvenile court judge in the children's case. He shows patience, compassion, and respect to the people in his courtroom. Even after hundreds of cases, he remembers the humanity of the people before him who are hurting. He rises above the fray to ensure justice for children who can't speak up for themselves. The wisdom and rightness of his decisions impress me. He shows me how powerful humble discernment can be.
I'm Still Learning. My case is so complex, and there is heartache in the messiness. While the system isn't perfect, I have hope for my CASA kids. They have a capable, caring team of adults on their side. As a CASA, I am a part of the solution. I advocate for ways that can impact these children's lives for the better. I have learned that being their advocate is the most meaningful relationship I could have, even if we never get to have that heart-to-heart conversation.