Meet Matt Tomashek, CASA Volunteer

MattTomashekFrom full time doctors to full time parents, retired lawyers to retail employees, CASA volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds. Their stories are as unique as the 1,528 Lane County children in foster care this past year but their reasons are all the same – they are here for the child. They volunteer their time to advocate and to be the voice for abused and neglected children in our community.

In 2014, we wanted to give potential volunteers a glimpse of what it means to devote your time to an organization like CASA of Lane County. The Volunteer Corner focused on the experiences of one CASA volunteer and we want to expand on that for the new year. Anyone who has worked with children will tell you it truly does take a village to raise a child, so we are going to spend 2015 introducing you to the amazing people who make up the CASA village, starting with Matt Tomashek.

Who is Matt Tomashek?

Inquisitive and observant by nature, Matt currently works full-time as a Store Detective at The Duck Store. He decided to become a CASA volunteer because he was intrigued by the investigative nature of volunteering and the legal aspect of the work he would be doing as an advocate for children.

Why Did Matt Decide to Volunteer?

Matt has been a CASA volunteer since April of 2014 and he currently has two active cases. He was invited to the CASA Heroes for Children Breakfast in late 2013 when Megan shared the analogy of a child being in the middle of a bicycle wheel when s/he comes into the foster care system. She explained how all of the professionals and adults are spokes in that wheel, making decisions about that child’s life (the caseworker, the attorney, the foster parents, counselors, teachers, etc), with the problem being not all of those spokes talk to each other and/or have the same information. CASA volunteers have the legal authority to talk to ALL of the people involved in the case and they have access to all of the information. They stand beside the child in middle of the wheel and help make sure that everyone is acting in the best interest of the child and if they aren’t, they report to the judge.

Where Does Matt Find the Time to Volunteer?

Matt appreciates the support of The Duck Store for helping him create a work/volunteer balance. He is fortunate that his team works around his schedule when he has a meeting or court hearing. The foster parents on his cases are flexible with visits and DHS (Department of Human Services) and therapy visits are set far enough in advance that he can make arrangements well ahead of time.

What Does Matt Find Most Challenging as a CASA Volunteer?

The most challenging aspects of being a CASA are when the children are upset. When parents don’t show up for visits, the impact on the kids is so profound it can affect them physically, as well as emotionally. “They get sick, they miss school because parents aren’t showing up.” This is what makes the role of a CASA so important. Matt has bonded with his CASA kids and they know he is a consistent adult in their lives. They look forward to his visits and he enjoys spending time with them and watching them thrive in their foster home.

How Did Matt Know He Was Qualified?

In his interview with Jim Jamieson, CASA’s Training Coordinator, one of the biggest concerns Matt had about becoming a volunteer is shared by many childless people: I’m not a parent, so am I qualified to be an advocate? Jim has repeated this line to all CASAs who have had doubts: “We wouldn’t have selected you if you weren’t qualified.”

Matt has advice for those who are concerned about their ability to be a CASA volunteer because they can’t handle “dealing with the issues” that brought the children into care. To this concern, Matt shares what we learned in training about why we volunteer. “The things that happened in abuse and neglect before you were part of this case are things you have no control over. You have to believe that everything that happens after you get involved with the case makes it better for the child.”