1. What made you decide to become a CASA?
I have a (long time) dear friend, who was a CASA Advocate for many years. She was passionate about helping the children she had been assigned. She visited their daycare centers, schools, homes, playgrounds, etc. She also attended Court Hearings and was present for parent visitations. In all of her dealings; she kept one focus "what is best for this child?".
After I retired from teaching, a speaker came to the Arlington Retired Teachers Association to talk to our group about CASA. Hearing the need for more volunteers, I decided to look into it.
Based upon my friend's deep commitment to her CASA children, this speaker, and the information I received at the first meeting I attended; I decided to pursue this volunteer opportunity.
2. What is your professional/ volunteer background?
I taught Elementary School for almost 4 decades in the Arlington Independent School District.
3. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a CASA?
I would encourage someone considering this role, to make a commitment to "be there" for the children assigned to him/her. What that looks like may change as the children's situaton changes. For "my 5 children" that means showing up at their schools (to attend events or eat lunch with them or attend conferences), reading to them on a regular basis, playing board games with them during our home placement visits, or helping the child with a school project. Each case is different. Each child will have different needs. The common strand; is that ALL children need to feel accepted, valued, and cherished (no matter what age the child may be).
4. What has been the most challenging part of being a CASA?
The most challenging part of being a CASA Advocate, for me, is the lack of a "shared vision" among all the agencies involved with the child. There does not appear to be a common goal of all working together and communicating openly for the best interests of the child. While I assume we are all "on the same team" and pulling together for the child; that does not always seem to be the case.
5. What has been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Working with my Supervisor, Ms. Sarah Barker, has been a huge asset. She is always supportive of my "best intentions" for my 5 children and gently guides me to see the "whole picture". While I am not familiar with all the legal proceedings and expectations from CPS; she is always willing to give me the facts and explain the "whys" of my questions. She has the patience of a saint!
In addition; the Lunch Bunch trainings are awesome! I try to attend these each month so I can stay current on the latest developments in Foster Care/CPS. The speakers are knowledgeable and offer a wide variety of topics that impact our children in Foster Care. It is also an opportunity to see fellow CASA advocates for a brief time.
6. Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or the CASA experience?
Because of my strong educational background; I am very focused on my 5 children's education. Being in Foster Care, many times these children are overlooked or unrepresented. They often have many "gaps" in their learning due to excessive moves or lack of attendance. Once the children are in Foster Care; they attend school regularly. However, the "gaps" in their learning creates a challenging situation for teachers, Foster parents, and the children. When schools know that someone is going to be there on a regular basis and check on the children; there tends to be a higher level of awareness about addressing the educational needs of the children in Foster Care. I have had the opportunity to meet some outstanding school counselors and teachers (across the grade levels) who truly invest in meeting the individual needs of children in Foster Care. Simply knowing that a teacher cares and is actively involved in the daily routine at school, makes a huge, positive difference for my 5 children.
“Sylvia has been an advocate for two years. She has had one extremely difficult case with five children. Sylvia has been with these children through changes in placement and school as the most consistent person on this case. While the two youngest children have been adopted, the three older children remain in care, in a relative placement. Sylvia meets at least quarterly with each child’s teacher to advocate for the children’s educational needs. Sylvia has been such a dedicated advocate. Her passion to help the children on her case is absolutely inspirational.”—Sylvia's Supervisor, Sarah Barker