Maureen had recently retired when she saw information about Child Advocates in the local newspaper. She read how Child Advocates served children who were victims of abuse and neglect and how they needed the help of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Volunteers to do so. After much consideration about how to use her new free time to help the community, Maureen decided this was the perfect fit. “I love children. I knew this would be a good way to get involved with young people and make a positive impact,” she said.
Maureen found the training extremely positive with a lot of variety. She knew the child welfare system is extensive and somewhat intimidating, so there was a lot to learn. Child Advocates volunteer training is in-depth and hands-on which prepares CASA volunteers to adequately work with children and families.
After her 30 hours of training, including a courtroom observation, Maureen was assigned to her GAL Dana Hunter. “There’s so much support from your GAL and the Volunteer Department. You never feel like you’re on your own,” said Maureen.
Maureen’s first case included a single mom with 5 children. All 5 children were removed and placed with maternal grandparents. At the time, mom was able to move in with grandparents as at the time with her children. This is where Maureen would meet the children, family and do the majority of her visits.
“It was surprisingly delightful working with this family,” said Maureen. While she had some trepidations going on the first visit, she found immediately that this family was warm and welcoming towards her. The children’s mother was understanding and willing to participate in services ordered by the court. It was a little overwhelming for her but she was persistent. “I learned so much about what these families go through,” she said. The children’s mother was only 26 years old and Maureen tried to be supportive and a positive role model for her. Maureen continuously encouraged her each time she hit a new milestone.
During her visits, Maureen helped the oldest boy, then 9 years old, with his reading. He had an IEP. She knew reading was the key to having a good education and she wanted to make sure he had that significant tool. She also worked with the middle child, 4 at the time, ensuring he was tested and assessed for potential speech therapy needs. All of the children were very energetic and affectionate. They loved Maureen right from the beginning. During the course of a year, over 5 case managers were assigned to the case. Maureen continued to be their constant, their champion, ensuring all of their needs were met while she was their CASA.
The case has since closed and the children are living in a safe and permanent home, with their young mother who is devoted to each of them. Maureen lights up as she talks about how heroic their mother is for continuing to fight to get her children back. She still communicates every couple of weeks with mom and visits the children when she can, especially on their birthdays.
“When I became a CASA, it opened my eyes to another world and experience. I have a new appreciation for my life and want to help people see the child welfare system differently. The impact you can have, as a CASA Volunteer, with one family is huge. It’s all about them knowing you are on their side and someone they can turn to if they need it. The work we do as CASAs is so meaningful. I’m proud to be a CASA. We change lives.”
– Maureen Hunton, CASA Volunteer