My first introduction to CASA came through one of my mother’s good friends who has worked as a CASA volunteer for several years now. She is one of the most compassionate, dedicated individuals I’ve ever known. She began talking to me about CASA’s mission after I accepted a position with Teach For America. She thought I should know more about what far too many of our children are up against before I attempted to educate them.
I taught Kindergarten at a Title I school in Tulsa, OK. I quickly learned my students’ names, birthdays, reading levels, best friends, dislikes, and favorite foods. It took me a bit longer to understand the unstable home lives that were a harsh reality for several of my students. But it wasn’t until I had to make an extremely difficult phone call to Child Protective Services on behalf of one of my five year-olds that I truly realized what their lives could look like outside of school.
I fought for my kiddos every day. I stood up for them when other teachers didn’t believe in their abilities. I persistently called and visited with their families in order to build a trusting relationship. I gave statements on their behalf to social workers and attorneys. And one day, I realized something. Not every child had someone who loved them unconditionally, who had faith in their potential, who was willing to fight for them. But every child deserves an adult willing to fight on their behalf– to stand up for what they deserve but are too young to articulate. This is where CASA plays an invaluable role.
Every day, children in this country are abused, unfed, and neglected. These children aren’t numbers or statistics. Every child has a laugh, a face, a need for love and protection. The people who volunteer to be the voice for these children are very real heroes. Every child deserves a personal advocate when going through confusing and time consuming legal proceedings. These children’s lives, happiness, successes, and futures are in the hands of a judge– a judge who knows little about each individual child. Having a competent adult who truly knows each child– her hopes, fears, and basic needs– helps the judge to make decisions that are truly in the child’s best interest. Every child deserves a chance at happiness and love. CASA volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that this is a reality for our children facing the worst.