By Chris Lilly
As a teenager I started volunteering in our local hospital as a candy-striper doing whatever task the hospital needed me to attend to at the time. I found a good feeling come over me after being at the hospital helping people.
Shortly after Bob and I married I found myself in church agreeing to help assist with the third grade Sunday school class, after one year I was the sole teacher of the class. The children and I had so much fun together. Also around this time my husband and I became foster parents and over the next couple of years fostered two young boys.
Since coming to Lafayette in 2013 I have worked in the United Way program Read to Succeed, this will only take an hour a week of your time and is a huge help to the elementary schools. There is a background check but there is no training to go through other than meeting the principal and teacher whose class you are assigned to through the program. We all know how to read and you just listen to the child read and encourage them to read well, make sure they comprehend what is being read. The children for the most part are thrilled to have someone come just for them each week. Read to Succeed also holds a Kindergarden Camp which was at the school I read at. I volunteered for Camp for 3 weeks. At camp one of the students shared a personal story with me and I could not quit thinking about that child carrying that burden. Why such a young babe should need to deal with such adult issues and that lead me to my next volunteer role.
Becoming a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate involves a lengthy set of classes to go through. There are entrance and exit interviews with the CASA staff. Afterwards you take your oath with the judge in the courtroom. Then you are assigned to your first abuse and/ or neglect case of a child. You have a choice of age groups and type of cases you are or are not willing to work with.
A CASA is the child’s voice in court. The judge may not actually visually see the child; only see the child on paper. Kids ten years and older are allowed to attend court hearings and with the approval of the judge. The DCS caseworkers have so many cases today that the role of the CASA has become extremely important to all in the courtroom. The CASA is consistent with the child, visiting often and calling to check in with the family or other sources. The judge relies on the case manager, CASA’s reports and verbal comments in the courtroom.
All CASA’s advocate for the best interest of the child. The CASA gives each child a chance for a safe and permanent home. Knowing that I can be a positive, make a difference in the life of a child is what it is about for me. To give a voice to those who may not even be able to speak: how could you not want to do this as a few of us at Trinity now do.