CASA for Kids, Inc.
Lisa was sworn in as a Barry County CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocate in April 2012. She became interested in CASA after talking to a CASA volunteer whom she met though her school district. Lisa learned about the important role CASA advocates play to ensure that children’s voices are heard and permanency in a safe and loving home is achieved. After retiring, Lisa knew where she wanted to volunteer her time to make a difference. She signed up for the extensive and eye-opening new volunteer training to become a CASA! Lisa shares, “I’m blessed to have ten grandchildren of my own. When each of my grandkids go through challenges or milestones in their growth, I always think of the kids that are abused or neglected and in foster care. If only they had the support and love that my grandchildren have on a daily basis, how might their lives be different?” Lisa has had six cases – each with its own unique challenges. She said, “I recently saw a young man, who was only about 12 when I began advocating for him years ago. I was at the grocery store one day and saw him, he ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. He explained to me that he had finished school and was working at the grocery store and staying out of trouble. I was so happy to see and hear that he was doing well in life despite growing up being bounced around in the foster care system. Seeing him reminded me why the role of an Advocate makes an undeniable difference in a child’s future. I remember visiting him weekly and making sure that I was a constant and stable person in his life. A person who would always make sure his needs were being met, including his educational and emotional well-being.” Lisa acknowledges, “I have stepped out of my comfort zone many times and realize that I can use this confidence in all areas of my life to reach out and help others. I would like future volunteers to know that if they’re hesitating or unsure if this is the work they want to do, then they should just try it. When you’re on a case, your only focus is the “best interest” of the child or children. This will guide the direction of your work.” Lisa explains, “the work I do as a CASA volunteer fills a gap in my retired life. I feel that I’m volunteering my time in a meaningful way. The kids are worth it and building that relationship is the most rewarding part. The friendship and support I get from the other volunteers and the CASA staff has sincerely enriched my life!”
Fern has been a CASA volunteer advocate since November 2017. She shares, “I learned about CASA through the Capital Region Community Foundation. I serve on the Foundation’s Grants Committee, and CASA applied for a grant to open an office in Ingham County. I was impressed with what I learned about CASA from the grant application as well as positive comments from a Committee member who worked for the court system. I was looking for an additional volunteer opportunity, in particular one where I could impact individuals in a hands-on way. CASA was a perfect fit! I am currently assigned to my third case. The first two cases resulted in reunification, and the third case is moving to adoption. In total, I was/am an advocate for five children. These children found themselves removed from their homes, through no fault of their own, with their lives being managed by the child welfare system. CASA provides a way for children to have their voices heard by the system and the courts. As an advocate, I am in a unique situation, different from any other person on a case, to communicate what is in the children’s best interests and what they wish for their futures. The court has shown enormous respect for the input from CASA advocates during court hearings and trials and sees CASA as bringing the children’s voices into the decision-making process. I have found my CASA experience to be enormously gratifying, challenging – in a good way - and very impactful on the lives of the children in my cases. Two of “my” kids had significant medical issues, and I was able to help the court to understand the needs and risks these children faced and what was required of the parents to keep their children safe upon reunification. A third “kid” is now a teenager, and I still see her as a “supportive adult” in her life, even though her case closed about two years ago. I’ve never had a volunteer job with as much responsibility as CASA, but I also have felt very well prepared from the beginning. The amazing CASA staff works hard to make sure that there is a good match between a potential volunteer and the advocate role. The training provided to new advocates is incredibly good. The staff is highly competent, always available and helpful, and shows appreciation for the volunteers in many ways. They provide ongoing development opportunities to broaden advocates’ knowledge and growth, and a support network of dedicated and experienced advocates to share best practices. If you are looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of children who find themselves in traumatic and uncontrollable situations of someone else’s making, consider becoming a CASA advocate. You will find it to be one of the most incredible experiences you will ever have!”
Amelia has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for Ingham County since June 2019 and has served as a CASA in two states. Amelia shares, “I came across the term amicus curiae ("friend of the court") five years ago and CASA was cited as an example. Out of curiosity, I started researching more about CASA and came across the gut-wrenching stories and statistics about child abuse and neglect in the country. My heart convinced me to start living a more intentional life. As a CASA, I can help mitigate the effects of the trauma these children endure. Upon first meeting most children in foster care, there is an understanding level of resistance. I take that challenge head on and I provide them with the attention and love all children need. The moment when I can finally tell that they have learned to trust me, lets me know I’m making a positive impact. It is so heartwarming to finally see their frowns turn into smiles.” Amelia explains, “since I was sworn in to serve, I’ve handled three cases. Each one was unique. One case in another state specifically included a child involved in sex trafficking who I constantly advocated for to receive suitable mental health care. It was by far one of my toughest cases. This delicate child needed a stabilizing force in her life. I was determined to be that by going above and beyond the requirements. Witnessing her confidence and self-esteem blossom was most gratifying. This young lady proceeded to excel in high school and went on to attend college despite her circumstances.” Amelia continues, “advocating for these children has given me nothing but joy! I believe we are all created for more than just ourselves. The magnitude of child abuse is overwhelming but maybe, just maybe I can make a difference and change at least one life for the better in a very personal way. Nothing makes me prouder than seeing the positive change in my children when I share genuine love and care for them. I highly recommend others to become a part of this amazing organization. No experience with children is required to become a CASA Volunteer Advocate. CASA will prepare you to be the best child advocate by providing excellent training and education along with continual support from their incredibly dedicated and supportive staff!”
Colleen has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for Ingham County since April 2018. She became interested in CASA after becoming an "empty nester." Colleen explains, “I work full time in the Michigan Office of Child Support, so CASA seemed to be a natural extension of the work I do every day, helping to promote healthy families and strong communities. Seeing a family fractured by substance abuse or mental health challenges is certainly heartbreaking but being sympathetic is simply not enough. Understanding how abuse and neglect can affect children caught up in a family dynamic they have no control over is sobering but knowing that there are many avenues to be part of a solution is empowering.” She continues, “When a child enters the child welfare system because his or her home is no longer safe due to abuse or neglect, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer (CASA) to advocate for the best interest of the child in court and other settings. There are many adults involved in a typical case (foster care workers, attorneys, judges, therapists, healthcare professionals, foster care parents, etc.) and this is often confusing and frightening for the children involved.” Colleen continues, “Knowing that I, as a CASA, am a consistent presence to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met is very satisfying. Although it has taken many months to develop their trust and a certain level of confidence, I am personally touched when the children for which I advocate are noticeably happy to see me in their home, school or daycare setting on a weekly basis. The excellent training that I receive on an ongoing basis from CASA provides me the tools I need to step out and be a competent voice for children I serve. Under the watchful guidance of my Supervisor and other support staff, I have been able to develop both personally and professionally in my role as an advocate. Although initially unsure of how I could be effective, I am more confident than ever that I am a strong voice for the children I represent!”
Laine has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for Eaton County since February 2019. When asked why she became a CASA, Laine explained, “I'm a social worker, but as a macro social worker and researcher, I spend most of my days behind a screen. Serving as a CASA fulfills my desire to be out in the community, working closely with folks who just need someone in their corner. I've done a lot of work with kids in the past, but now I’ve reached a point in my life where I am ready take on the roles and responsibilities of a CASA.” Laine continues, “The youth I work with has taught me a lot about bravery and perseverance. She finds joy every day despite great loss and trauma. My role as her CASA has taught me that the most important thing I can do is just show up, and continue showing up! My youth knows and trusts that while her workers, therapists, and even her placement may change, I will continue to be there every week.” When asked what she finds most gratifying as a CASA, Laine shares, “Recently the youth I work with invited me to her dance recital. It showed me that she valued and trusted our relationship and wanted to share this special part of her life with me. Having that ONE person in her corner to advocate for her best interest so she can thrive and reach her full potential - that’s what being a CASA’s all about!!!”
Shelly has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate since March of 2012. She has advocated for many children throughout our community. Shelly is dually sworn in in all three counties that we represent – Barry, Eaton & Ingham. Shelly became a CASA advocate because she needed “purpose in her life.” Shelly explains, “I wasn't employed and felt I needed to do something meaningful with my time. I have always loved working with children and when CASA came through Voluteermatch.com, I thought why not give it a try. My son was a troubled teenager and someone in the community gave him a chance in life so, I thought I would pay it forward.” When asked about the impact being a CASA Volunteer Advocate has made on her life and the lives of the children she has served, Shelly enthusiastically shared, “OMG! The kids I have worked with amaze me with their resiliency and willingness to just be happy. I have always felt that the kids impact my life more than I do theirs until one of my former CASA Kids spoke at our Michigan CASA conference. He told the group of CASA Volunteers that I was a light in his life that kept him going week after week. His statement brought tears to my eyes and gave me more energy to continue my advocacy work.” Shelly continues, “I feel like I have a purpose that I'm good at! I feel like I do make a difference in the lives of children in my community. I love the education we get through the training we receive and that helps me to do a better job of advocating for the children I serve. The children that I work with make my heart swell with happiness each time I see them. They make me realize how fortunate I have been in life and not to take things for granted. They help me to be a better person. Life isn't about what we get, it's about what we can give! Giving a little kindness, hope, and love to the most vulnerable humans on the earth can have a huge impact on their future and hopefully change the world a little bit at a time.”
Oliver has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for Ingham County since November 13, 2019 and has served as a CASA in two states. Oliver shares, “I was semi-recruited to be a child advocate in another state during my graduate school career back in 2018. I accidentally stumbled upon a Guardian ad Litem recruiter on my campus while walking back from dinner at my school’s cafeteria. She invited me to apply for a CASA volunteer advocate position. After applying, I was accepted and have been a child advocate since.” After moving to Michigan, Oliver reveals, “I decided to work for a non-profit in Lansing, primarily due to my positive experience as a CASA volunteer. I found a sense of fulfillment and purpose in service, which in turn highly contributed to my motivations to apply for non-profit work here in Lansing.” Oliver continues, “CASA gave me a sense of fulfillment from helping kids going through some hard times. It feels great to know that you have had a positive impact, however large or small, on someone’s life. I hope that I have been a positive role model, a person to trust during hard times, and an advocate for them in court. The most rewarding part of being a CASA is developing a relationship with the kid that you advocate for and getting to see them weekly. My last assigned child told me that I was a role model for him, and my current child said to me that he looks forward to me coming to visit him weekly. Knowing that my kids care about me coming to visit them makes the time commitment worth it. Hopefully, my time with the kids I have served in both states has had a positive impact on their lives.”
Marilyn has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for Ingham County since April 2018 and is dually sworn in to serve Eaton County children as well. Marilyn became a volunteer because she has wanted to help abused and neglected children for as long as she could remember. Marilyn shares, “When I was young I knew a child who was abused and eventually taken from his home and that has always driven me to help kids. I taught preschool for many years and had a few kids that were adopted after being abused or neglected.” She explains, “I’ve only had one case with 3 kids and I’d have to say, they effected my life in a positive way. They have also showed me what RESILIANCE really looks like!” With a smile, Marilyn continues, “I am honored to be a voice for these YOUNG PEOPLE. I absolutely love being a volunteer advocate and am so proud to be a small part of the CASA’s mission to serve these children!!”
Shelley has been a volunteer with CASA of Eaton County since December 2016. She became a CASA child advocate because she had many years of experience in the child welfare system and she wanted to participate in a different way. Shelley shares, “the children I’ve worked with have impacted my life greatly. They have certainly made me aware of the uncertainty that they face when they are removed from their parents’ care. It’s heart-wrenching to see that happen.” Shelley believes by advocating for the child she served, that child had permanency sooner than if CASA hadn’t been involved. “It’s rewarding to know that YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the life of a child by advocating for the right things to happen for them.”
Diana has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate with CASA for kids, Inc. of Barry County since May of 2018. Diana explains, “I became a volunteer because I was a foster child once and always wanted to make a difference in a foster child’s life. Being a CASA has enriched my life and given me a sense of purpose. I love to see my CASA children smile and open up… showing their true personality, without any reservation toward me.” Diana believes the time she spends with her CASA girls has enabled them to trust adults and to form an unconditional relationship with her. Diana’s hope is that that trust will continue when they return home.