“I have the time to volunteer and I feel like it is part of the "social contract": that in response to all I have been given, I give back.”
How long have you volunteered for CASA? I was a CASA for about 3 years, starting in 2004 or so, until I was no longer able to make the time commitment necessary to do a good job. I spent the next 9 years helping care for my mother in Southern California, which meant I was out of town a lot. She passed away in 2012 and I was ready to re-enter the volunteer world. The opportunity to share a position at the Recruitment Desk at CASA fell into my lap in April of 2013, so I took it!
In what capacity do you volunteer? I share responsibility with my two wonderful co-volunteers (Marjorie and Adrienne) for staffing the Recruitment Desk. We have two main functions - supporting efforts to fill up the CASA training classes, and screening all those who do volunteer to go through the training. Obviously, thorough screening is essential to the CASA program and includes fingerprinting and background checks through the FBI, Department of Justice, California Child Abuse Index, the local Sheriff Department, Social Security, etc. Potential CASAs must also submit proof of their driving record, car insurance; provide personal references which we check, and more.
What do you do in a typical shift? How does this fit into CASA as a whole?
In a typical shift, I check the Department of Justice fingerprint website, check e-mails to see if anyone is inquiring about future class training opportunities, send out reference letters, and go through files to make sure that all of the necessary items are in place for each future CASA before they can be sworn in and be assigned a child. We also attend the first day of training and hand out a lot of forms that need to be signed, make copies of their Driver's Licenses, insurance cards, collect the $75 fee for the class, etc. We then enter that information into their files and into a database called "Tracker".
This recruitment and screening process is vital to making sure that all the children being served by CASA can trust that this very important person in their life is volunteering for the right reason - to help a child. We obviously need to insure that no pedophiles or anyone with a criminal background (or a bad driving record) is entrusted with a child. We also schedule interviews for each prospective CASA with two Advocate Supervisors who further screen for issues such as past trauma, boundary issues, mental instability, etc. Once they have been thoroughly screened, completed the 30 hour training with Cathy Orton et al, and been sworn in, they are assigned an Advocate Supervisor who matches them up with a child or sibling group.
What are your favorite parts about volunteering? I obviously don't work directly with any children, but I like the feeling that I may be making a slight improvement in their difficult lives. I enjoy interacting with the staff members and feel that they are all top quality. It is rewarding to be a part of the CASA organization. I also enjoy the feeling that I am accomplishing something each time I come in.
What have you learned during your time at CASA? I have learned how many kids there are who need a helping hand, whose lives look nothing like the life I have been privileged to live. I have learned that a CASA can change a child's life by giving them someone who is solidly on their side. I have learned that there are many wonderful people in our community, both CASA staff and volunteers who care passionately about what happens to these kids.
Why do you volunteer? I volunteer because I can! I enjoy a comfortable life, good health, and many other blessings. I have the time to volunteer and I feel like it is part of the "social contract": that in response to all I have been given, I give back.
What would you tell a prospective volunteer about CASA? There is a wonderful support staff at CASA who will be with you every step of the way. It doesn't take a specific skill set to be a CASA, just a caring heart and the desire to help a child live up to their potential. The need is great and there are many kids still waiting for a CASA.
Fun Fact or Hidden Talent: I love bird watching!