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What I've Learned Since Becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate

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Sometimes some of the hardest things we do can create the most joy. I recently signed up and trained to be a court appointed special advocate (CASA) in Maryland. I was very optimistic and very excited to help a youth that is here in Prince George County, Maryland. But the reality is once I got started with this process, it’s been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

I was assigned an 8-year-old little boy. This young child has been through a tragic situation. He has lost a piece of his innocence, he’s been taken advantage of by an adult he trusted. Sadly, he was removed from his mother’s home.

My foster youth is currently in a wonderful foster care home, and is working hard every day to grow, feel successful and meet life joyfully. I thought my job as a CASA would be very simple, and yet it’s been one of the most complex things I’ve ever dealt with. You work with foster parents who may or may not be trained in the area that best suits this child. They welcomed this child into their home not knowing what trauma the child had experienced. They open their hearts to give this child shelter, protection and a safe home. They don’t know how short or long the child will stay with them. Yet, they said “yes.”

You also work with a school psychologist, a social worker, a therapist and all of these various team members; coaching them to keep their eye focused on this child, knowing that they as county workers have a huge case load.

I had to have an honest conversation with the foster parents this week that while the child’s mother doesn’t seem to be involved currently, that it is not their place to judge her but to encourage this child to continue to love his mother unconditionally. The child’s mom is working through her own issues. These issues are overwhelming to her. And she is doing the best that she can every. single. day.

From an outsider’s view, it’s so easy to judge people and the journey that they are on. But we simply can not know the pain and sorrow that they deal with every day. She too is a victim.

But as we work together, we start to see success. We see this child grow and change. We see him become more confident, and secure in this home and his life. Some days success is obvious. His grades may reflect it. His smile and attitude may reflect it.

Some days success is more quiet; when he wants to ask questions and be more open in talking about his past. Moving forward looks different for everyone, but in a child you can see it in their eyes. It shines in the joy and happiness of being young and carefree. We are starting to see that slowly come back.

As I often say, we are all just a little broken. We are like shells on the beach, each with a flaw. No shell is without a flaw, discoloration or crack. Sometimes the flaws are obvious and you can see the chips clearly and at a glance. Other times the flaws may be a tiny chip or a minute crack.

But life is about loving each other in spite of our faults, in spite of our flaws.

Please reach out and be a CASA if at all possible for you. Or be a Foster Parent. It is so rewarding.

But mostly, hug your family.

It makes you appreciate your family, and the quirkiness that is unique to each family.

It shows that we are all so different and yet so alike.

Visit for more about becoming a CASA if your heart is open.


Photo credit: roberthyrons/Getty Images

Originally published: October 9, 2019
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