Sunday, December 16, 2007

CASA's - Crazy About Kids

It can now be your choice to stop participating in
the oppressive nature of child abuse and to
reclaim your life, how YOU want it to be.
It can be your choice to take back the power
from the perpetrators and to
use your experience to help others.

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about during this season of giving? We'll "Imaginif...Child Protection Became Serious Business" is having their Carnival Against Child Abuse Christmas 2007 Edition . I enjoy Megan's "stuff" so much that I decided to indulge myself today and just poke along through all the exciting blog postings there.

We'll, then I discovered Kate at Baby Lune is sponsoring a writing contest on a "favorite charity that acts against child abuse," so, of course I took time to write one while I was taking this "busman's day off" from reading and writing about child abuse! No hope for some of us, is there?

CASA's - Crazy About Kids

CASA's are volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children. There aren't enough of them for many reasons, but here are a few:

CASA's have to care enough about children to be strong in the presence of the effects of abuse and neglect, and not give in to the luxury of venting their own anger and grief over the abominations committed against children, so often inflicted by their so-called caretakers.

CASA's have to care enough to enter homes where they aren't welcome, and sometimes would rather not be, ask personal questions that are resented, seek information about the home that people would rather never have known, sometimes risk physical danger, and all the while remain polite and attempt to establish a trust relationship with children and adults who often have no reason to trust anyone.

CASA's have to care enough to spend hours waiting around courtrooms to be there with and for the children for whom they advocate, only to have the case postponed so they can do it again. They have to make innumerable calls to attorneys and others who won't return calls, and are uncooperative when reached.

CASA's have to care enough to spend hours pouring over ill-kept records in unfriendly agencies, seeking information that can help a judge decide in the best interest of a child, rather than follow recommendations that may be carelessly suggested by over-worked child welfare staffers, or worse, may be profit or politically motivated.

CASA's have to show up at odd times and odd places to serve as advocates. They attend conferences at schools, joint-conferences at agencies, discussions in hospital rooms, clandestine meetings in dark cars on side streets, and anywhere else that might contribute an essential piece of information. Sometimes they even act as squatters for long hours, refusing to leave situations where danger to a child could be imminent without their continued presence.

CASA's have to do many things, like these and more not mentioned, to fulfill their legal commitment to serve the court. They do many more things to fulfill their heart-commitment to the children they serve. Many of those things you will never learn about because most CASA's do for children, not for recognition. Some things CASA's do take time, some money, some energy. CASA's volunteers donate it all, because they want to, not ever because they have to.

One other thing CASA's don't have to do, but the one thing all CASA's do, is care so much about abused and neglected children being protected from the worst sides of mankind that no matter what else they may have to do CASA's remain committed to finding and bringing out the best side of mankind in every one connected to the children for whom they advocate.

Courts can appoint many people from various professions to advocate for abused and neglected children. However, what can't be appointed is the part of every CASA volunteer that makes them truly a CASA. When all is said and done CASA'S are indeed Special.

So!…friends and family who read this will demand! So!… if CASA's are so special, if they are so needed, if they make such an important difference for abused and neglected children, and if, as you claim, you choose to devote yourself to children's welfare, WHY did you resign as a CASA?

The answer is simple. One reason I resigned is something everyone can do something about to keep other CASA's from resigning for the same reason. I am disabled and live on a below-poverty income. Gas and automobile expenses have skyrocketed in the past year. CASA's are on the go a lot. As is so often the case for organizations that depend on volunteers as workers, the CASA I belonged to cannot afford to reimburse volunteers for gas…or anything else besides some phone calls. In my experience, there isn't enough money in the world to hire someone to do what CASA's do…but there might be enough to at least keep them able to do it.

The other reason I resigned you may, or may not, be able to do anything about, but I will share the reason anyway. CASA's, as I've said and believe, are Special people. Perhaps I simply was not special enough. Perhaps the cause is otherwise. In any case, I wasn't special enough inside myself to stand strong against the continual onslaught of public and professional opinions proffered on every possible occasion that CASA's cause trouble for other agencies involved in children's welfare (they surely try!), that CASA's act like nothing else is as important as the best interests of the children (they surely do!), and that CASA's act like they know more about the children they represent than anyone else working for them does (that's true, too!) and that CASA's act like being a volunteer is as important a job as being paid to do whatever they do, and more valuable from the individual child's perspective. (Maybe?) Actually, I think CASA's ARE usually better on both counts.

PS: For Anyone interested in the pleasantly surprising results for the CASA article see:

Because Holidays are About Families over at Baby Lune.

And be sure to check out Gwendolyn Gross's book The Other Mother!

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee

1 comment:

Megan Bayliss said...

Oh I so hope that CASA wins the charity money that babylune is offering.
It is really hard working in child help agencies where there is little money and little community support.
My husband works in the private sector and he is continually amazed at how badly agencies are funded and what we workers put up with.
Thank you though Nancy for using your blogging as a platform for social change. We will change the world form our living rooms and without massive government spending.
Nancy if you feel secure enough to send me your postal address, I'll send you a copy of my children's book. Just leave me a comment over at my blog if you do not have my email and I'll email you.