Megan Mondays: The Next Chapter

megan-mondays2My morning alarm goes off, I sit up in bed and as my feet hit the floor I know whether I am ready to take on the day or if it is going to be a struggle. As I start my way downstairs, I begin to think about what is on my “plate” for the day. Appointments, meetings, reports, phone calls, etc. Is the day going to be typical, special or challenging? Is it a “mission impossible day” or one “full of possibilities?” I learned early on my journey with CASA that it was better if I chose to start my day with a positive outlook because most days the mission of CASA felt impossible.

I was really naïve about the plight of children, the struggles families faced and the dysfunction of the system when I joined the CASA staff 15 years ago. Newborn babies were being placed in foster care, teenagers were running from it and some children were dying before the state intervened. At times, it felt like things were happening at lightning speed in system that was cumbersome, confusing and wound tightly in red tape. Early on, I remember sitting at my desk feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned and defeated and then I met our CASA volunteers and all that changed. 

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Megan Mondays: Behind Every Number is a Child

numbers-151354_640A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a part of a panel presentation at the City Club of Eugene.  The topic was “Changing Lives in Juvenile Court.” The presenter included our juvenile court judge, a caseworker from child protective services and me.  I began my presentation with the statistics below because I believe they are a powerful and provide critical context to any conversation about child abuse.

I believe that by the time a child ends up on the doorsteps of a foster home there have been multiple failures of our systems, our community and the adults that are responsible for keeping children safe.  There is not a person or a specific system that bears the entire burden or blame.  This is everyone’s problem collectively and individually.  We are all responsible to keep all children safe.  We can and we must do better, before child protective services is called to intervene; and, then, we must do everything in our power to get children out of the system as quickly and as safely as possible. Educating ourselves about the realities of families who are struggling and/or unable to keep their children safe is critical.  It is also important to understand what happens when systems and support fail and children and youth end up in juvenile dependency court.

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Megan Mondays: Passing the Torch

megan-mondays2I have always said I would know when it was time to leave CASA.  I’ve determined that the time is now. After fifteen inspiring, challenging and meaningful years at the helm of CASA, it is time for me to move on.  It was a difficult decision to make because I LOVE CASA.  I love the mission and all the people who are committed to our community’s most vulnerable children.

And, it is difficult to leave because the work is not finished. There are still hundreds of children in Lane County that are caught in the bureaucratic system we call child protective services. They do not have the powerful voice of a Court Appointed Special Advocate.The burden of advocating for these children continues to weigh heavily on my shoulders and my heart.  

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The Buzz

beehiveI walked into work today and the office felt like a beehive of activity.  The energy level was through the roof and it was only 8:00 a.m.  When talking about CASA, I often say, “I need your time and/or your money.”  Ultimately, it is my responsibility to ensure we have the funds we need to support the mission and the volunteers we need to deliver the program.

Volunteers are a diverse group.  Some people want to be in the trenches. They make the commitment to CASA training and the subsequent ten to fifteen volunteer hours a month for at least two years.  These are the people who can give their time to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer.  They have big shoes to fill because they are the volunteers that carry out the critical mission of CASA, one case at a time.  They are the volunteers that people think about when they hear the word “CASA.” 

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Megan Mondays: Fostering Futures

lwejkjkloHelp. Support. Assist.  These words describe my daily intentions and my actions.  I believe I have a servant’s heart.  I want to help people.  I want to help make their lives better and alleviate their pain.  This all sounds well and good, but it can become a problem. The more emotionally connected you become to individuals you wish to help, the closer you can get to enabling the very behavior or lack of momentum on the part of the other person that is causing problems.  I often have to ask myself, “Have I arrived at a place in this relationship where I want something for them more than they want it for themselves?”   I find myself asking if I have as much control over reaching the desired outcome as I’d like to think I do.

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Megan Mondays: 702

702I like to know where I am headed, though I am flexible enough to adjust if the map doesn’t work.  Setting goals helps me “know” where I am going and, as Executive Director, I’ve worked to insure that CASA is very goal-oriented.  We set all kinds of goals:  volunteers recruited, trained and retained, children served, cases closed, funds raised and funds spent.

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Megan Mondays: Do You Know a CASA Volunteer?

Kid_w_CASAIt was just a chair lying on the sidewalk, but it sparked a conversation.  My husband, Mike, and I were sitting near the window at our favorite coffee shop one morning.  People were coming and going.  It was a great spot for watching people, but it was a chair that caught our attention.  A young man was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and while attempting to navigate around all the obstacles, he knocked over the chair.  We were surprised when he just kept going and did not look back.  We were even more taken aback by what happened next…

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Megan Mondays: Jump In and Stop Wading

girl-is-jumping-in-a-cold-waterI have had the privilege of professionally mentoring some remarkable, young women over the years.  I chuckle to myself when I agree to that role because I know I will end up learning just as much as they do.   Tiffany was a graduate student at the University of Oregon working towards her Masters degree when I first met her.  I immediately sensed she had “rock star “potential.  She was, energetic, smart, determined and a little silly.  The thing that struck me most about her though was that she had courage.

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