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Shondra & Jalia's Story
SHONDRA AND JALIA
“I didn’t know much about Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) until I saw an article in the local newspaper looking for volunteers,” says Diana. The article shared that there was a waiting list of foster children needing CASA volunteers. “It made my heart hurt and it hit close to home since I had been a foster child and know too well the challenges of growing up in the system.”
CASA provides highly trained volunteers who advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the court and in the community. “For us,” Diana says, “being a CASA volunteer means not just listening to the children, but hearing them. Being their voice. Being the one constant person in their life - someone who believes, supports and encourages them. It is being their advocate in court, when tough decisions need to be made.”
Diana was an advocate for two sisters. “When I first met *Shondra and *Jalia, they sat very close together on the couch, far across the room from me. They were quiet and appeared afraid, as they were in their second home in three months. Their answers were a few words at the most, with the younger looking to the older before responding. Slowly they opened the door wider to let me in.”
“Week by week I would visit, play tennis with them or just be present at the co-parenting time with their father. The parents were not bad people, they just made poor choices. I witnessed the girls each turn a year older – and watched them blossom.” Gratefully, CASA’s involvement supported not only the girls, but also the father in his recovery, and the girls were able to successfully return to their father – the outcome they hoped for. Reunification may not have occurred without the CASA’s consistent support and involvement. CASA changed Shondra and Jalia’s stories – forever altering their life paths.
Diana’s story highlights the impact volunteers have with our community’s most vulnerable children – those touched by abuse and neglect. CASA’s advocacy helps reduce the transition, loss and trauma experienced by many children in the system. It changes their stories.
*Names changed to protect confidentiality