Read testimonials about how the WV CASA Association and our various programs are making a difference for children across West Virginia. Stories are from our own CASA volunteers and also former children that received assistance from a CASA.
A PERFECT FIT!
“When I first started, I didn’t think I would want to serve on cases with babies, but I’ve found my niche,” Barb told me several months ago. It’s the littlest victims that really speak to her passion as a CASA volunteer she told me. “These babies are so vulnerable and need someone to speak for them,” she said. She had stopped by the office to pick up some paperwork on her latest CASA case involving an infant and I was asking her about her experiences as a CASA volunteer.
“I’ve always loved being around children. Even as a young teen, I babysat my five cousins in the summer while my aunt worked. I dreamed about having a Subaru station wagon filled with kids,” she said laughing. As Mom, she was involved in her son and daughter’s school programs and children’s programs at her Church. Five years ago when Barb retired from CJIS, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service in Harrison County, she wanted to volunteer in the community, something that involved kids. It was her daughter who told her about CASA and encouraged her to contact an acquaintance of hers – Kim Baker, the Marion County CASA Director. After being inspired by Kim, Barb realized CASA was a perfect fit. As there was no program in Taylor County where she resides, she decided to volunteer with CASA of Marion County.
In the time that Barb has been with our Program, she has served as the CASA volunteer on six cases involving 8 children, ranging in age from newborns to 18 years old. Her eyes twinkle when she relays stories of all her kids. She still receives photos and cards from some of the families she came to know through her CASA service. It’s not hard to imagine why: Barb’s warm and sincere. Families, whether foster, kinship, or biological, sense her interest in them is genuine. She has empathy for the family and child’s challenges and is respectful to everyone alike. She will work as hard to identify needs and resources for biological parents, as she will for kinship and foster parents. Families appreciate Barb’s honesty, knowing that she is fair and cares deeply about what happens to the kids. And, of course, there is Barb’s secret weapon – her laugh. It immediately engages you whether you are an adult or a child, MDT member, CASA staff or fellow volunteer.
I always appreciate the contribution that Barb makes when we have volunteer share opportunities. In speaking to some of our new volunteers, she’s able to relate the uniqueness of cases she’s served, and the importance of not making assumptions and pre-judging. Barb told me there “is a feeling of satisfaction that comes when you know you’ve made a difference, when a child can be reunified safely with his parents or be adopted and grow up in a loving, safe environment.”
Just yesterday, I spoke with her about an infant. She emailed me a Court Report on her current case and added, “I will take appointment for the other infant.” Yes, indeed, Barb has found her niche. And we are so fortunate that she has!
Vesna R. Meinert
Executive Director, CASA of Marion County
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Timing is everything—that describes CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for me. When my daughter was in grade school, I was working part-time with a flexible schedule and was looking for something more to do, maybe volunteer in the community.
A friend of mine was serving on a United Way Grants Panel and was learning about all the different non-profit agencies in the county. One in particular had caught her attention –CASA. A few weeks later, the local paper featured an article about CASA and the urgent need for volunteers to become advocates for abused and neglected children in civil abuse and neglect proceedings. I was astounded there were so many children who were victims right here in my community!
Didn’t these children deserve to grow up feeling as my daughter did –loved, nurtured, and safe? I picked up the phone and made the call to the CASA. Maybe I could help. I met the Program Director and Volunteer Coordinator, completed the application, background check, and began training. I learned about the signs of child abuse and neglect as well as its impact on children, what brings families to crisis, and the court process.
I learned that in civil abuse and neglect proceedings, the Court makes decisions that can change children and families forever. At the swearing ceremony, the Judge told us he valued the input and time CASA volunteers devote to their appointed children and the proceedings, as these are the most difficult decisions before the Court. It was powerful stuff.
Long after cases are dismissed, there is always a child that stays with you –that reminds you of why you decided to become a CASA volunteer. I think of sweet baby Jane (not her real name). Allegations of neglect had brought Jane to the Court’s attention. Born prematurely, she was three months old when I was appointed to her case. Her mother was young, unsupported, impulsive and impoverished. CPS had a safety plan in place and services were being initiated for Mom. A referral was made for “Birth to Three,” and Jane would catch up in time. Except I had this feeling in my gut after I made my first home visit, so I went about doing what CASA volunteers do –I gathered information. I spoke with Jane’s pediatrician, family, reviewed all the medical records, spoke with doctors at the hospital of her birth, and did some research on the Internet. I learned a lot. It would never be just about “catching up” for Jane. As a result of complications from her premature birth, Jane had special needs and would face challenges every day of life.
This knowledge really raised the bar on what the minimum sufficient level of care was for Jane and what was in Jane’s best interest. The family case plan was changed to encompass Jane’s special needs. Over the next several months, I visited with Jane at her foster home regularly, observed visitations with her birth mother, monitored and advocated for services to help Jane and her mother, attended multi-disciplinary team meetings, and court hearings. It was clear to me that even with services put in place to assist her, Jane’s mother was unable to provide the care Jane needed.
By having the time to get to know Jane, her mother, and their circumstances, I could give the Court thorough and objective information of what Jane’s needs were and what was truly in Jane’s best interest. The observations I made and the information I gathered probably would have been discovered in time. But despite good intentions, the system moves so slowly and that emphasizes the significance of what all CASA volunteers do –we honor a child’s sense of time because we have the time to focus on a child’s needs. Yes, timing is everything.
Jane’s story had a happy ending: an extraordinary family adopted her. She is loved, nurtured, and safe.
Former Child of CASA
CASA of Marion County