Life as a CASA – #1
Years ago I heard about a program in which volunteers called “CASAs” work with abused and neglected kids. I don’t remember how I first heard about it, but my knowledge of what the volunteers actually do was limited until a couple years ago, when an article about it refreshed my memory and led me to the National CASA Association’s website. I was interested immediately and wanted to get involved, but at the time was in my second year in Antioch’s MFA program, and didn’t want other obligations distracting me from my writing. So I put the article in a stack of newspaper clippings and pages torn from a variety of sources, where it spent the next year with the infinite other ideas that sprout in my mind like weeds, randomly popping up then being set aside or eventually forgotten.
If only time were as abundant as those good intentions seem to be. Still, that article planted a seed that grew in my mind as the months passed, and I planned on learning more after finishing my degree.
Many people see “CASA” and assume the program has something to do with houses, maybe a building project or something. That’s what I thought too, when I saw the acronym. Later, during my interview, the volunteer coordinator told me that more often than not, this is the case. In fact, even when people know it has nothing to do with houses, the program itself, and the role of the volunteers, is somewhat misunderstood. One of my intentions with this blog is to introduce the program and give a clear picture of what being a CASA entails.
Another motive here is to discover why I chose this opportunity. What drew me to CASA, as opposed to, say, a fundraising project for a community playground? What particular aspect of CASA’s mission became a rumble of isolated thunder in the distance, and drew me toward the storm, toward cases of abuse and neglect, rather than making me turn away or take shelter? For the past several weeks I’ve been attending training sessions for this role, and on Tuesday I will be one in a group of seventeen men and women who will be sworn in by a judge and officially become Court Appointed Special Advocates. In the coming weeks, I will continue to write about Life as a CASA, using the beginning of our training as a jumping off point, and then continuing on with the actual work we do to delve into deeper questions and, hopefully, along the way increase awareness of, and interest in, the role of the CASA, and the young lives that benefit from this program.