Before we became foster parents, my friends who had fostered would talk about their CASAs and apparently I just didn’t fully absorb what a CASA does. Or who a CASA is in a case. Or what an involved CASA can mean in the life of a child.
I realize that some (or many) of you may be in the same situation…you don’t really know what a CASA is or what a CASA does. So even though at some point I will provide you with a list of many of the possible players in the foster care game, this week I would like to explain the role of CASA and simultaneously slip in a nod of “thanks” to the lady who gave of herself on behalf of our son.
To begin, a CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate. This is a volunteer role, and is one who serves under the GAL (Guardian Ad Litem); this is the primary role in a case in which the person’s “job” is to advocate for the child.
Now surprisingly, even though every child SHOULD have an advocate in his corner, not every case has a CASA. Is it because they don’t need one? Absolutely not. It is because they are in short supply but high demand. As I mentioned, a CASA is a volunteer position so not surprisingly, people are not exactly lining up for this role. So let me pause and put in this little plug: if you want to be involved and make a difference in the life of a foster child, but do not feel called to care for children in your home, this is seriously an amazing way to have impact. You can go here for more info: https://www.in.gov/judiciary/iocs/3457.htm
I don’t mean to brag, but our CASA was amazing and she stuck it out for the whole case; and what I find to be the most beautiful piece of the story is that we are still in contact today. She was there at a pivotal point in our son’s life and although right now he might not fully understand who she is, it is our job to make sure he understands that she’s important to our family’s story.
So yes, she hung in there, in spite of the fact that when she initially called me (when our son’s case was brand new), I could not, for the life of me, remember what a CASA was; any notion or understanding I had of what a CASA was had completely left my sleep-deprived and overwhelmed brain. But she told me her name and her role and asked when she could visit the house and meet the child…I was so overwhelmed I had no clue what she was talking about.
And yet…because in foster care sometimes you just roll with it…I said, “Sure, come on over!” (actually I don’t really know exactly what I said, other than that it was in the affirmative, because she came over to visit us.) I also don’t remember too much about her visit except that she was perfectly delightful, but yet I understood completely that she was not going to be looking at my (or anyone else’s) best interest…she understood her role to the hilt and she was all about the welfare of that baby.
She had asked for a case that wouldn’t require as much of her time as a previous case, but little did we know that this case would require multiple doctor appointments, 4 visits a week and then some. She did not attend them all (because that is not the point of a CASA) but she was there as often as she needed to be…to see me interact with the baby, to see biomom interact with the baby, to understand his medical issues and to determine what she thought would be best for him going forward. I never once heard her complain about all the time she spent on the case…her focus was what was going to be best for the child, and she understood that going into the task.
Being a CASA is NOT an easy gig, but she did it…and so many others have done it as well. I am certain it is often a thankless role, with much time and thought devoted to it. Lots and lots of careful thought. But in the end, it is a role that keeps at least one pair of eyes on the kids in care and helps ensure their safety.
Now, I know that Children’s Bureau, DCS and the courts do their best to ensure that a well-educated decision is made for each child in the foster care system, but honestly I don’t know where most cases would be without the thoughtful consideration of a CASA.