Saturday, September 08, 2007

I'm going for it.

Almost a month ago, I learned about an organization called CASA. They provide volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to children who have been abused or neglected and are now living in foster care.

The nation-wide program was started by a judge who noticed that children who have someone to speak on their behalf faired remarkably better than those who do not.

The idea was (and is) that if everyday citizens could be empowered to spend a little bit of time with a child each week, listen, talk, care and pay attention to how they are fairing, then speak-up on their behalf, their chances of living a happy healthy life improve dramatically.

The benefits that a CASA volunteer provides a foster child have been well documented. A recent audit conducted by the US Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General demonstrates that once a CASA volunteer is assigned, approximately:
  • 95% of children do not languish in long-term foster care.
  • 90% of children do not reenter the child welfare system.
Knowing someone cares enough to look out for them makes all the difference in the world.

What a cool concept. I wanted to know more right away. I picked up the phone and found out that the next day they were offering a volunteer information session. Sign me up.

There, I learned that in San Francisco alone, 2000 kids are living in foster care. Currently, only 10% of them are paired with a CASA volunteer.

They explained that social workers and lawyers are often asked to serve 40-60 kids at a time. While they do their best to meet those kid's needs, normally, they see each child only once every six months.

That isn't enough to really know what is in the child's best interest.

They explained that if I had 2-4 hours a week to dedicate to improving the life of a child, I could become a CASA. (You could be come a CASA.) It seemed like something I absolutely wanted to do.

At the same time, I learned that San Francisco CASA was hiring. They needed a Case Supervisor to work with and support volunteers.

This sounded like the kind of job I have been searching for these past few years. Not only would I get to be a child advocate, I would help others advocate for kids. I applied for the position.

During the next few weeks, I went back for two interviews, they considered other candidates and checked my references.

We spent time talking and thinking about what would be best for our family. As excited as I was about the idea, I realized the job would mean longer days with less time off.

I would also be required to commute into the city. I was excited about having stimulating new experiences but worried about having to leave home earlier and getting home later and honestly I was a little intimidated. (photo credit)

This week, my summer ended and I went back to work as a substitute teacher. It was fun being back. I went to three different schools and was greeted warmly with hugs and praise at each one.

I have really enjoyed working as a substitute teacher. Interacting with a large community of teachers and kids, stepping in when they need help and having the same schedule as Sam has had many benefits.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I received the call, I had been told to expect from CASA, along with a job offer. I decided to take it.

I have decided that having something challenging and stimulating in my life is a good thing. Instead of worrying that maybe I can't, I have decided that it is better for me to know that I can. I have decided to work full time on one of the problems that matter.

Cameron and Sam have been incredibly supportive of the idea from the beginning.

Yesterday, one of the teachers at Sam's school told me about a conversation she had with him recently. When she asked him what I was up to, he answered, "She's going to be a child advocate."

I'm going to be a child advocate.

Can you believe it?

I can.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I cannot keep myself from smiling as I read this blog! My heart is spilling over with pride....I think you have finally found your calling my friend. What a blessing to be able to see you come into an opportunity that will allow you to use your gifts. I would say best of luck...but it is the kids you will SAVE that are the lucky ones...or maybe a better word is BLESSED! Congrats!!!!!

All my love
Heather

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mary,

Congratulations! This is wonderful news. I know someone who works for CASA, or used to anyway. Your blog is great. I scrolled down and found photos of the boys on the Ring Mountain hike. Nice!

Cathy (Eric's mom)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Mary,

Sounds as though you're off on a wonderful and fulfilling new venture. I know you had to wrestle with some logistics as far as family life goes, but Sam and Cam will back you all the way. We're proud of you and wish all the best for you. Let us hear how you all are.

Love, Liz

Anonymous said...

You Go Girl!!!!!

I am very proud of you. I had heard fo CASA before and know of the work that they do.
You are going to be such a blessing to the lives that you touch. And an inspiration to those of us who know you.
I think this is going to be a good use of your talents. (Empathy being one of the biggies.)
Oh yeah, drive careful.

~ Carma

Anonymous said...

It's perfect for you. Congrats. I'm sure you'll throw your heart into it. Thanks for sharing.

-- Bill

Pickled Eel said...

Hi Mary, does not sound like you need much encouragement at all. Well done. Go for it. You know my sentiment for similar programs down here in Australia - if at the end of your life you can say you were the catalyst for good in another person's life, especially a child, then its been a worthwhile journey.