The acronym CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. But what is a Court Appointed Special Advocate?
Be the Superhero
Every child deserves a hero – someone who will defend them against the bullies in the world, who will recognize their strengths and encourage them to greatness, who will walk beside them in their weakness and who will help them find their footing when they fall. This person might be their parent, their teacher, their neighbor or an older sibling; most children don’t need to search very far to find their champion. This is a good thing. Without someone in our corner to support us along the way we might find ourselves facing a goliath size problem alone. In these situations, the odds of experiencing success can be insurmountable – particularly if you are a child.
Imagine a five year old boy, beaten and severely neglected by the only parent he knows, placed in a hospital as a result only to remain there for 175 days without a visitor. Or a young lady who looks in the mirror every day to see a beautiful Native American girl looking back at her– but she is unable to see the beauty because she has been taught to despise her heritage. For these children their life is their Goliath. Common developmental challenges that most children face and deal with successfully can be overwhelming. For them, every perceived shortcoming only confirms their lack of worth in this world. For these children a common hero isn’t enough. They need a superhero.
These are the children who need someone who refuses to turn away when the child shouts, “I hate you!” They need someone who can navigate the complicated systems they find themselves tangled up in. Someone who is willing to visit them in yet another foster home, in their third group home, at the mental health facility they were placed in after an attempted suicide or in jail after they attacked their teacher. They need someone with x-ray vision - who can see through the façade to the soul of a hurting child. Someone with supernatural strength – someone who can battle the goliaths on their behalf; who can overcome the barriers the child places around themselves in an effort to hide from a hostile world; who can tear down the walls around them; who can carry them through the storms. These children need a super hero – and for many, that super hero is their CASA volunteer.
It isn’t easy being a CASA volunteer. There are days when the thought of facing yet another challenge seems unbearable. Sometimes circumstances knock you down, and you don’t think you can get up again to dust off the cape someone draped on your shoulders. You wonder why you are doing this work when there are thousands of other things you could be doing with your time. Just when you feel like it’s time to quit something happens – something magical.
You remember the way your CASA child looked at you when they finally figured out that you really cared about them. Or maybe while sitting beside them in yet another waiting room, you happen to glance down at the etch-a-sketch on their lap and read, “Thank you for helping me.” In that moment you remember you can fly. You know that you will fly anywhere and overcome any obstacle to support the child in your charge. Not because you were born with these miraculous gifts, but because a child needs you to exercise them. Somehow, that gives you the power you need to put on your cape and be the superhero for your special child.