Changing a Child’s Story: One Volunteer at a Time

The 4th Judicial District CASA Program recruits and trains adult volunteers year-round to become Guardians ad Litem to advocate for foster children in child protection cases in our community. These incredible and dedicated CASA volunteers graciously donate their time and passion to provide best interest advocacy for children and youth by showing up in big and small ways during the life of a case. These volunteers provide a consistent presence in the child’s life through monthly visitation and staying in touch with all of the people in the children’s lives so they can make recommendations to the court that are in the child’s best interest. Each month, CASA volunteers travel all over our community to visit with the children in their placements, observe visitation with the children’s parents, visit the children’s schools or day care facilities, and more in the course of their volunteer work. Their advocacy provides additional information to the court that is solely focused on the children, what is in their best interests, and has the ability to change a child’s story.

A light in the darkness

Child protection cases can take many twists and turns on the road to permanency for a foster child. For the 4th Judicial District CASA Program, more than 74% of cases ended in reunification with at least one biological parent in 2023. Although CASA is proud to be in support of children reunifying with their parents, there are some cases that do not end with reunification but rather with termination of parental rights and adoption. Cases that go to termination and eventually adoption can be some of the most challenging cases a volunteer will work on in their time with CASA, but they can also be some of the most rewarding as well.

Recently, one of our cases ended and it was an incredible moment for the new family as they ended one journey in the child protection system and began a new journey together as a family of four through adoption. For more than two years, two siblings had been a part of a child protection case that had the initial goal of reunifying with at least one of their parents. As time continued, it was clear that reunification was not going to be possible, and the court ordered a new plan for them, and their case moved to termination.

Throughout their case, their CASA volunteer was with them each and every step of the way and advocated for their best interests. Their CASA volunteer observed supervised visitation with their parents, talked to their teachers and counselors, visited them when they were placed with their grandparents, when they were moved to a non-relative placement when their grandparents were no longer able to care for them, and even checked under their beds to ensure there were no monsters. For those children, their CASA volunteer was one of the most consistent people in their lives that they could depend on to show up for them no matter where they were placed. For almost two years, this case had many twists and turns, with moments of sorrow when reunification with their parents was not possible, and moments of joy when the children’s adoption became final. The CASA volunteer was even able to help provide a bridge with the help of the foster parents to ensure there was a place for the children’s biological grandparents to continue their role as Nanna and Pappa.

On a cloudy day in February, more than 50 family members (including the biological grandparents), friends, neighbors, classmates (and their parents), clients of the parents, social workers, court clerks, the CASA volunteer, the CASA Program Director and a woman the children met on a recent flight who they invited to their adoption, showed up for these two children to celebrate their new family on their adoption day. It was a day filled with so much love and so much joy. It was exciting, heartwarming, and quite emotional to see permanency for the children and the impact of one person saying yes to volunteering with CASA and yes to showing up for foster children in our community.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Guardian ad Litem and saying yes to advocate for foster children in our community, please reach out today to sign up to attend an upcoming Volunteer Information Hour this spring! All it takes is one person to change a child’s story.