Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Volunteer Opportunity

Fifteen years ago, I started a volunteer "job" that was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my life. It was also very rewarding for my entire family. For eight years we were a Transitional Care Family for The Gladney Center. We took care of newborns until their legal work was complete for adoption. We had 60 babies during our eight years, and we all loved it so much. Many nights of interrupted sleep finally took its toll on me. I also knew that I would be having grandchildren soon and didn't want to be "burned out", so I resigned. I still think about returning, but I know that it would be hard to do now at this stage of my life.

I have been looking for a volunteer opportunity for quite a while now. The problem is that I could not find anything that was the perfect fit. I volunteered at a couple of places where I was in a back room doing "busy work."

My last volunteer job was brutal. I would arrive on time and the person I was working for would not be there yet. When she arrived, she would always say, "Oh my goodness, I didn't realize it was Wednesday. Come back here and let me see if I can find you something to do." It would be something that would keep me busy for three hours, only to be shoved aside until the next time she couldn't find anything for me to do. It was just busy work and didn't make a difference. After 6 weeks, I decided that sitting at home and watching TV would be better than that. Rather than my work helping out and making a difference for them, they were trying to find something to keep me busy.

I was watching TV recently, and I heard that they needed CASA volunteers. When I read the description of what is involved, I knew it would be perfect for me.

A CASA is a court-appointed special advocate for children who have been removed from their home because of abuse and neglect. In these cases, CPS removes the child from their home. There is the CPS caseworker, the attorney for the parents, and ad-litem attorney for the child and possibly other professionals involved in the case. These professionals all have a huge case load and to them the child is a "case" and not a delicate human being.

As a CASA, I will be assigned to a child as his/her personal advocate. I will visit the child, go to parent visitations for observation, go to his/her foster home, talk with Dr.'s and teachers and most importantly the child and find out what is in the best interest of the child for a forever family. I will also "investigate" to see if there are other possible family members that would be willing to care for and provide a loving environment for the child. From there, I will attend court hearings and make recommendations to the Judge, along with the professionals.

I am SO excited. Besides the fact that it will make a difference in the children's lives, I will be doing all of the things that I enjoy; investigation, legal, court and talking to lots of people. I can't wait to get started.

I have passed the application, recommendation, interview and preliminary background process. (I was clear on my last criminal check for grand jury in the fall and I don't think I have committed a felony since then, so I will probably pass). The next step is 30 hours of training that starts mid July, and then 2 times of court observation. Then I will get my first case.

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Gigi2 said...

Lolly, I would love doing this too. I have heard of this and a friend of mine was just recently telling me about this. I think it would be a wonderful reward to know that you made a difference in someone's life. You are perfect for this!

York Family said...

Wow Laura! This sounds exciting and rewarding. I'm so glad that you found what you were looking for! What a difference you can make in the lives of all of those children. You are amazing to give of your time to help kids in need! You rock!

Janelle and Ella said...

Lolly, I honestly don't know how you will do that. You have a gift and are amazing. What you are doing is SO NEEDED and I wish I felt like I was strong enough to handle it. You are going to change children's lives. They will have a better life because of what you are doing. You are an inspiration to many!
I still would love to get together. I really want to talk to you about this and about your experience with the Transitional Care Family.

Amy Wade said...

I am so excited for you! This does seem like the perfect fit for your gifts! What a wonderful and important job- this will be a great ministry!