The charity closest to my heart is CASA of Travis County. I struggled for sometime trying to find my place giving back to this world. Many charitable organizations I have been a part of focused on raising money which is so extremely valuable, but I felt an great distance from the challenges of others. Learning about peoples struggles is one thing, getting involved hands on is another.
There is a lot of training and checks involved in becoming a CASA volunteer, as there should be. For those of you not familiar with CASA, here is an overview:
--We are Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the CPS system (a national program).
--We are given one family at a time, and stay with that family for the duration of their case with CPS.
--Because the CPS system in Texas is in crisis; they don't have time to really spend with the kids, to advocate for what they need beyond basic food, clothing and safe shelter.
--CASA sees their children at least once a month; wherever they are placed whether with Foster, family, jail, a home or at their home. Our goal is to ensure all their needs are being met including education, medical, developmental, cultural, spiritual (if applicable), and emotional. We do fun and fulfilling activities with them like going to the children's museum, library, parks and special cultural events.
--CASA advocates in court, in front of the judge for the child's best interests. Sometimes at odds with the other parties in the case.
--We form strong bonds while being positive, constant role-models in their life. But once the case is over, whatever the outcome, we are mandated to provide a positive exit from their lives...a healthy good-bye.
These are the forgotten children of our communities; neglected, abused and abandoned. They often are in a familial cycle of this behavior that their parents don't have the tools to stop. Their stories are real and raw. You get pulled in and you feel like they are your family, your responsibility and you strive with every advocacy....a talk with their teacher, with their parents, with their therapists or doctors to change their reality for the better.
I can't talk specifically about my experiences because they are very rightly confidential but it is the most rewarding work in my life. Especially if I can truly make a difference in their lives. Because they are precious, they are vulnerable and they are truly amazing.
If you are ever looking for a way to get involved...hands on. Check out the CASA in your community.