CASA Blog | Answer
Written by Melissa Cruz, Advocate Coordinator
I love hearing the questions new advocates have and bring to each training time. During the last night of class this season, questions were asked about giving out our personal cell phone numbers. Questions were asked if case families would call us late at night. My mind shifted to my first case. I shared with the class that once you receive a case it’s like it comes on your heart, almost like this responsibility comes upon you to do this good work. It’s a real family, not just a case study in class.
Thinking back to my first case, I remember taking a piece of paper and drawing a line down the center of the page, then a line across making 4 squares. I was appointed as CASA/GAL for four children, so I marked the names of each child within the box drawing. When I drew that box, and placed their names into their own square, I put identifying facts next to their names. I just kept going over their names. I wondered how I’d remember all the information I was gathering. And then I met them.
The children were in different placements. During one of the visits, the youngest in the family shared with me that he missed his sibling that was in a different home. I shared this with his older brother then when I visited with him. The older brother looked at me and asked when I last saw his little brother. It was the first time that I was able to break through his wall.
The next visit that I had with the youngest child, I asked him if he wanted to make a card for his older brother. He was so enthusiastic about this. He didn’t know what to do on the front, so I helped him trace his own hand. When I gave that card to his older sibling during a visit his whole expression changed. This was such a sweet moment; the older brother kept touching the front of the card that his younger brother made. This was endearing to see.
During another visit, the youngest child wanted to draw again, but this time for his mom. He asked me again for ideas of what to draw. I suggested he draw his family. This was so memorable for me to see as a new advocate that despite the trouble that caused the children to be removed from their home this child drew each person with smiles on their faces. The family then had two emergencies during the case. Both times, the oldest sibling called me late at night. Looking back, my notes reflect one call was after 10 p.m. and one time I received a call at 2:53 a.m. Each time, I answered the call! It wasn’t a burden. I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to know that they were ok. I heard the youth say something that still gives encouragement. She shared with someone in the background during our late-night call, “I called Melissa, she’s the only one that answers on nights like this.” That stuck with me. She knew I’d answer.
So, in giving a response to the new class: it’s up to each advocate if they give out their number. I’ll keep giving my number so that we can text and call , and yes, even if it means in the middle of the night. Because I want them to know … I’ll answer.