CASA Blog | Blanket
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
I remember being in a workshop designed to inspire those working with children – and I learned an insightful lesson.
A blanket was placed on the floor. A volunteer – representing a child – sat in the middle of the blanket. Individuals were selected to move the blanket – one at a time. One person could move the blanket – but the point was made that the blanket covering the child was carried “ok” enough – yet with a struggle. When an individual was then placed at each corner of the blanket and each corner was lifted a little – the “child’ was carried with greater ease.
I’ve remembered this lesson and seen it in full view as I’ve worked CASA cases. The CASA – a Court Appointed Special Advocate – is able to stand at one corner for the child.
As a child advocate – we have a piece of paper given to us with words typed in black ink that have our names in front of the word Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). We are non-attorney GALs – and non-paid as volunteers but we’ve been appointed to advocate for the best interests of the child. A CASA is appointed to cases involving alleged dependency, neglect or abuse.
Although a child may never know about the behind-the-scenes investigative work done on their behalf – the advocacy is not quiet. Questions are asked of each person directly connected in the child’s life – calls made, visits to homes each month, court hearings attended and notes taken. Requests are made for records including educators, the medical field, and law enforcement. Typed pages are submitted to court that have been pared down from many hand-written notes to a simple report from months of work.
When thinking of our casework a picture comes to mind – the advocate visiting a child’s home, standing on the front porch with a knock and a hope that the door will be opened to them once again. Sometimes we visit cozy homes, interact with the child or children and listen to an informed guardian. Sometimes we’re standing in front of broken doors and entering homes with roaches and holes in the walls.
We just keep showing up. That is what I want the child to remember. “My CASA kept showing up for me.” This is part of taking up a corner.
I’ve seen a fiery, driven advocate need to pause and then speak on the edge of her words – as if not to cry – while giving a heartfelt statement in court. Because this involves the life of a child. But there are more corners.
I’ve waited for a child at their school for a visit and while in the office, noticed a school staff member affectionately greet the child then open a special drawer filled with goodies – presented to this child to select one. I saw the child’s whole expression change once walking through the door. I’ve seen office staff pause from duties to be attentive to a child’s request as they passed by their way.
I’ve been invited to a meeting for a child – and had the input of the principal, the resource officer, the school nurse and then given access to the teacher – all at one table.
A corner has been lifted. But there’s still more corners left.
Something that moves my heart is when someone steps in and opens their home to children in need – giving shelter and care for a child of a relative or friend. I admire this supportive act. I like to remind them they’re doing a good work.
When a parent makes a distinctive turn for the good – this is life-changing for the child. I’ve seen a mother turn the page on her drug use, heed the advice of the caseworker and therapist, and leave the courtroom joyfully yet in tears because the case was dismissed.
This family is changed!
I believe there’s an intentional response on behalf of a child in need. I believe in the goodness of people wanting to lift a corner. Children need someone to champion them.
I have seen educators, school officials, concerned guardians and family members, court officials, caseworkers, community workers and advocates – all taking time and standing at a corner for the child.
I’ve heard the question asked, “Why can’t someone do something?” Perhaps the person asking needs to look around at what’s presently being done. The truth is – a lot of heart is in this city. Our outlook changes once taking up a corner to lift a child.
Perhaps there’s a corner for you to lift.
Written by Melissa Cruz, Advocate Coordinator