Passion, dedication and a commitment to her CASA kid is what makes Joanne Pedersen an ideal CASA volunteer. After witnessing what children in foster care go through in the court system, Joanne knew she was meant to be a CASA.
Who is Joanne Pedersen?
Joanne Pedersen is a full-time Practice Manager at Willamette Dental Group. She has a warm smile and an infectious laugh. She is an avid reader and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
Why did Joanne become a CASA volunteer?
Joanne feels that working in the dental field has a lot of rewards, but she wanted to do something that would make a difference in the life of a child. Joanne says, “I started working in the dental field to pay for graduate school, but I always envisioned that I would work with children. CASA gives me the opportunity to focus on kids.”
How much time does Joanne spend on her case?
It varies. Including travel, probably 5 – 10 hours a month.
How does Joanne find time to balance her work/life/volunteering?
Joanne says she is lucky to work for a company that encourages volunteering. She says, “It’s one of our core values and they are flexible with my time.”
What’s the most rewarding part of being a CASA for Joanne?
Joanne says, “Just watching my CASA kid grow, adapt socially and become more confident. Watching how a nurturing foster family is helping her develop. When I first met her, it was difficult for her engage in a conversation but now she loves to talk and tell me what happened during her day. It’s interesting to see how a good and stable environment helps a kid.”
Joanne had her “THIS is what a CASA does” moment even before she got her first case. She was observing a Termination of Parental Rights hearing for two young boys. They were sitting in court by themselves, with just their lawyer and caseworker. Mom arrived late and Joanne saw one of the boys look at her and call “mom, mom, mom” just loud enough for her to hear but also not to disturb court. He was trying to get her attention but she was avoiding eye contact. As soon as the hearing was over, mom was the first one out of the courtroom. Joanne says, “I’ll never forget that kid’s face when his mother wouldn’t even look at him. That moment, it became real.”
On this same day, Joanne was also able to observe an adoption proceeding. She says, “It was a celebration. I got to see full circle what a kid goes through and how important it is for them to have someone there to support them.”
What was Joanne’s biggest concern about becoming a CASA volunteer?
Joanne wondered whether or not she would be effective as a CASA. She says, “I’m butting into people’s lives. How effective will I be as a stranger coming into their home, asking questions, calling teachers and doctors? I worried about being too intrusive. I was also worried about the attachment to my CASA kid. I’m the only one who’s been a stable and consistent person in her life since I took the case two years ago.”
What’s Joanne’s advice for interested volunteers?
If you think you can, you can. Joanne tells us, “Anyone who is considering becoming a CASA is obviously already thinking of ways to get involved and wants to make a difference. There is something in them that wants to give back and that is the first step. Going to family court and observing a case is a great way to get a glimpse of what it is all about. If you have the opportunity to give, you should. There are so many kids in need.”
If you are interested in observing a CASA volunteer’s work in court, please contact us! Public court hearings are scheduled most weekdays around 10am. We would love to host you.
Click here for more information about becoming a CASA volunteer.