Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flaunt Your Cause: Being a CASA

Surprise!  According to my time (CDT), it's still Wednesday, but it's officially Thursday on the east coast, so here we are!

The day to Flaunt Your Cause has finally arrived!  I'm so excited you're here, and Emily and I are so anxious to see what everyone has to share.  Brace yourself for some serious inspiration overload, people!

Before I share one of my causes, I have a few words to share with you.

"You can't live a perfect day without doing something 
for someone who will never be able to repay you."
-- John Wooden

I am so excited to share my experience as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)!  A long-term volunteer opportunity like this is very complex, but today, I want to give you the basics and share a bit about my experience.  It may be something you're interested in!

WHAT: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

A CASA is an adult who is assigned to a foster child in the juvenile dependency system.  It is the CASA's responsibility to objectively gather information from key players in the child's life (foster parents, teachers, relatives, biological parents, sport instructors, etc.) and advocate for the best permanent plan.

WHO: An adult with an open heart and time to dedicate to a foster child and juvenile court processes.
Due to the confidential nature of this volunteer work, a CASA must be responsible, thorough, compassionate, open-minded, diligent, and available to visit with the case child 2-4 times per month.  (That can be as little as 4 hours per month!)

WHERE: Anywhere in the United States!
You can search for the CASA program in your area HERE.

WHEN: Anytime.
Organizations that interview, screen, and train CASAs have information and training sessions throughout the year.  Similar to starting a job working with children, CASAs must pass a background check and be finger printed.  Due to the rotation of training sessions, I had four months from applying to starting training.

WHY: There are thousands of children in the system who really need the help of an advocate.  
We all remember how difficult those younger years were, but imagine being moved from home to home, school to school, never knowing if you'll be adopted or just age out of the system at 18.  Their situations are complex, and having an adult who can decipher all the moving parts and simply be a voice for them means that they know they are noticed, heard, and loved.

With my training buddy, Barbara, at CASA Graduation 2009

MY STORY (extremely abridged!):
My first "big kid" volunteer job was working as an aide in a preschool for Autistic children when I was 16.  After that, every volunteer job I pursued was focused on children.  As I got older, I knew I wanted to be a CASA, but I was waiting until I knew I had the time and energy to dedicate to it.

I was a CASA with Voices For Children (VFC) in San Diego, CA, from November 2009 to October 2011.  I was assigned to a bright two-year-old who I will call Joy.  She was born to two very young parents who were not on speaking terms and in some trouble with the law.

During my time as her CASA, I came to know her foster parents (also her relatives), her aunts, her biological parents, her daycare provider, and her preschool teachers.  They enriched my life in unexpected ways and taught me more about who I want to be as a mother one day.  I was reminded how fortunate I was to have the childhood that I did, but I also learned that love thrives in all places, not just for "picture perfect" families.  Joy and I would talk about Elmo, her friends at school, cupcake parties, Tinkerbell, and her trips to SeaWorld. She excelled in preschool.  She loved to tell people: "You're beautiful."

Appearing in juvenile dependency court is less stressful than it sounds.  I attended three court hearings which required three court reports (all reviewed and approved by my VFC program supervisor).  Court hearings include only a small group, and it's all behind closed doors.  Due to her young age, Joy attended few hearings.

Being a CASA stirred new levels of emotions in me.  My heart broke for Joy when her father was fatally shot.  I was angry when her mom didn't show up for a scheduled visit.  I was frustrated when I sat in an important meeting listening to people discuss who should have custody of her and why.  I worried that I wouldn't be permitted to stay on her case until the end when I found out I was moving to Texas.  (Luckily, I did get to stay on the case for the remaining four months and checked in via phone!)  But it wasn't all negative, not even close.  I felt loved when Joy thanked me for things.  I felt successful when I overcame a few toddler melt-downs.  I felt infinitely proud when she was adopted by her relatives who now have full custody of her (and thank me for my hard work every single time I talk to them).

I was a busy CASA.  I worked a full-time job, did two musical productions, sang for a few other gigs, got married, maintained family and social life, and moved my married life to another state!  But it was all worth it.

For the sake of confidentiality, I cannot tell you names or show you pictures.  In fact, we never took pictures together.  I only have her school photos.  In two months, Joy will be five years old.  As she gets older and starts to understand how her life is "different" from her friends', I hope she will also understand how loved she is and that her past doesn't dictate her future.  And just like she tells me when we talk on the phone, I hope she knows that she is beautiful.

If you have any questions about my time as a CASA, please feel free to comment below or e-mail me at
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Do you have a great cause to link-up?  It's simple!
1. Follow Emily and I via Google Friend Connect
2. Add your post using the Linky Tool below.  (Our blogs are interlinked, so you only need to add your post once to appear on both of our blogs.)

Flaunt Your Cause


Emily @ Emmy June said...

Ahhhhhhhh...pinch me....the day is finally here :)
I loved your vlog, especially the line about how some people flaunt their bodies. Pretty slick, my friend.

I love reading more about your work as a CASA. It really makes me want to think about that. I can imagine there would be a big range of emotions, but I'm sure they need level headed, rational individuals to volunteer.

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops} said...

I have always wanted to be a CASA ever since I found out about them. I haven't settled in one place long enough for that to be something I could reasonably do and be fair to anyone, but it's on one of the first things I plan to do when I finally set down roots!

Such an awesome organization!

Alana Christine said...

SUCH a great cause!!

Katie Price said...

What a beautiful post & story Lindsay! I knew that you were kind & compassionate, but this is evidential proof. Are you going to get involved in Texas & take on another child?

Andrea D said...

This sounds wonderful. I had no idea there was a volunteer opportunity like this! I'll bet you do so much to help those kids by just being a good friend :)
For the past few months, I've been volunteering for Girls on the Run, a program that teaches girls about exercise, good body image and self-esteem. At the end of the program, they run a 5K race and ours is this weekend! It's been a really great opportunity for me to learn from the girls in my group...and I hope they've gained a lot from it, too!

Ashley H said...

My boyfriend is an attorney & on the CASA board here. I think it's a great cause!

Clare said...

I love this - you are amazing! My neighbor is a CASA and it has been an incredible experience for her. I loved reading about your story. I would love to do something like this one day!!!

Michelle said...

Dang, that is AWESOME. Those kids desperately need people like you!

Unknown said...

aww little joy was so lucky to have you! You are so incredible, have I told you that? Well not enough that's for sure! I'm working on my cause tonight to post! I think you'll like it :) Keep doing amazing things girl there are just not enough bloggers (or people in the owrld for that matter) that try to make a difference. YOU are incredible. Love ya mucho Jordan :)

Jamie - aka jamie with a mustache

Jess said...

Not even gonna lie - I have tears in my eyes right now. have one of the BIGGEST, SWEETEST hearts ever. And you inspire me every single day. I than kyou for your hard work, inspiration & constant encouragement.

I hope that I impact people as strongly as you have impacted me.

I love you!

Jami said...

Wow, what a great program! Lots of time and dedication, but being an advocate for foster children is worth every second. Thank you for sharing!

krys said...

i love this linkup :) new visitor!

Jessica Nicely said...

What an AWESOME idea for a link party!!! :) I can attest that The Letter 4's cause/link is truly AMAZING!!! And how awesome that you're a CASA!!! :) The CASAs are priceless when we work on cases in Foster Care Review!! Such an amazing thing you're doing here with the link party, by raising awareness for other causes and by being a CASA!! XOXO :)

do_it_ajen said...

This is so great! Today was my first time visiting your blog and I'm lovin' it!

Blissful & Domestic said...

Hi there! I am having a Sunday Blog Hop and would love for you to join in the fun!Come link up your cute blog!

Danielle @ Blissful and Domestic

Laurie said...

I am just not coming across your blog! So sad I missed this day - I have a great cause! Will this be a weekly/monthly thing?

Not Exactly What I Planned...

Kimberly Erskine said...

While going through college, I was a part of Kappa Alpha Theta and our philanthropy is CASA. Having volunteered at fundraising and advocacy events, I have always wanted to become a CASA. Thank you for sharing your experience. I certainly hope, wherever, my life leads me that I'll be able to partake in such a great opportunity.

On a side note, I'm a new reader of your blog and am thoroughly enjoying your posts.