Written by Melissa Cruz, Advocate Coordinator
Something that stands out from our training as a CASA advocate is a picture each new class is given to view as part of the teaching. The picture shows a home that appears to be in chaos. But we are challenged to view the photograph with a different outlook.
The dishes in the sink – they are there because someone made a home-cooked meal for the family or provided food to eat. The clothes basket shows that someone is taking the time to make sure there’s clean clothing.
As an advocate – we want the least restrictive action for our families. The most disruptive action would be the removal of children from their home. Despite how we would keep a home or want to raise the children – we must look for the good. What are the parents doing? What does this family need? How do I best advocate for them?
Shown in the picture are items of concern too – like the medicine bottle being left out or the knife placed where a child could have access to it. How would you share that with the parents during a visit?
I had a home visit like this when filling in for another supervisor during an initial home visit. The father seemed on edge from the time he opened the door for us – and it was a scheduled home visit. He showed us plans on his screen for a remodel and shared that as a reason why the home was so messy. We met the child and then I asked to see where the child sleeps. We were shown the bedroom which was the parent’s room with a toddler bed in the back corner. I immediately noticed two ashtrays on the floor filled with cigarettes – some were half-smoked and others just the ends of the cigarette left. The toddler’s path to his bed in that room would have taken him directly past the filled ashtrays. The father was sharing that there was a remodel happening that was taking a longer timeline than anticipated.
When we began ending our visit out in the front room the father asked for any advice we had. I restated his phrase and asked if he was truly ok with my feedback. I then shared that although it’s good there’s a remodel happening – making sure the ashtrays are empty and out of reach from the young child can happen by taking them to the trash can. Prior to that – I went back over the good I saw that was happening in the home despite the mess everywhere from the “remodel.” The new advocate later told me that by the next home visit – the ashtrays were gone!
I think this is my favorite lesson I’ve learned in my time as an advocate: “Look for the good!”