Alma’s Volunteer Corner: Kids Come in All Shapes and Sizes, and So Does Advocacy

Aug20Last week, I spent some time with my CASA kid. It was nice to catch up with her. We had lunch with her caseworker and talked about goals and make-up and bug bites that seem to be the most annoying part of summer. While I spent some time observing, most of my visit was dedicated to listening, giving her a chance to share her thoughts and feelings. 

This was different from my first case with toddlers who were too young to chat. We spent most of our time playing with toys, coloring and drawing, and having their foster mother share their progress. While on that case, my job was to observe. Observe their home life, their interaction with each other and their foster siblings, their interaction with their foster parents, and with relatives during scheduled visits. It was also to talk to doctors and lawyers and therapists and caseworkers.

When I first became a CASA, I asked them to pair me with younger children because the idea of working with teenagers I didn’t know made me uncomfortable. Mainly because I was worried I wouldn’t know how to talk to them or how to connect.

But I really lucked out with my CASA kid. She is smart, creative and caring. She knows what she wants: a big difference from working with toddlers. They cannot voice their opinions, thoughts or feelings. I advocated for toddlers by gathering information, talking to experts and observing the kids to make what I feel is the best recommendation to the courts.

With a teenager, they can – and they do – share what they want. It is very important to be honest and clear with your kid so they know that you’re pushing for what’s in their best interest. Sometimes what they want might not be they need, but if you’re honest and upfront with them from the beginning, they understand. Well, at least my kid does. For the most part, I try to respect her wishes and support her needs.

We don’t color; we talk about art. We don’t play with toys; we discuss our personal pros and cons of make-up. She is an active participant in her progress, so when I meet with her doctors and teachers, she is part of those discussions. So far, that’s been the biggest difference in advocating for a teenager versus a toddler.