Hello and welcome to ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know. – the blog where your questions and concerns as new or veteran CASAs will be addressed by an experienced CASA Advocate – that’s me, Deb!
While I’m here to lead you through discussions to answer your questions and to share CASA stories with you, remember that each CASA case, each CASA child, each CASA Advocate, and each local CASA program is relationship and location specific. My advice is to remember the CASA mantra: “Check with your Supervisor!” Supervisors are your best source for answers, and support for you and your CASA case. I will say that developing and sustaining a great working relationship with your supervisor is also critical to your well-being as a CASA Advocate. Stories and experiences I share with you will underscore the importance of this relationship.
By responding to your questions and concerns ASK CASA
- will bring us together as we share common experiences
- will provide us with new, different, and illuminating perspectives
- will highlight new information as changes in training and continuing education come across my laptop
- is here for you to Ask. Seek. Know. Your ideas and suggestions are always welcome!
For this initial post, let’s talk about your first CASA experience following training and your Swearing-In ceremony. If you’re like me, I couldn’t wait to be assigned to a case and make my first visit! I knew I wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. Is this how you are feeling – anxious and excited? [Disclaimer: this was in the pre-COVID-19 world when we could be together.]
My supervisor presented me with two cases she thought I would like. I appreciated that we discussed the cases and the +/- of each one. Once we/I decided and scheduled the first visit, which we would do together, I was busy gathering items to take along. My local CASA Program office has a lending library with books, games, and toys. There were three children under the age of 4, so I knew having books and games in my Magic Bag was important. Your world experience with people and, for some, parenting skills, make you more than prepared for your first visit. You are ready!
My supervisor and I met at the family’s apartment for the first visit scheduled for 30 minutes, where I was introduced to the mom and the three boys as their CASA. Mom and supervisor talked about the CASA program while the boys, not at all shy, jumped up and down asking what was in my bag. We all plunked down on the floor and rummaged through the Magic Bag. For me, it was very natural to share books and games with very young children and to observe them playing and interacting. I was gathering information for my monthly report.
Once the initial visit was finished, Mom and I set the date and time for subsequent visits. My supervisor was always, always available to accompany me; I just needed to ask. I needed to ask for help if the case got ‘messy’ or I felt I needed moral support. I simply needed to plan ahead with my schedule in case of travel or vacations. Ask your supervisor how s/he manages visits and covering for you when you cannot make a visit. Conserve your well-being as a CASA Advocate by establishing and maintaining a close working relationship with your supervisor and your local CASA program staff. Again, pre-COVID-19, I would often stop-by my local CASA office if I was in the neighborhood. I was always warmly welcomed! You, your CASA child/ren, all the players in your CASA case, your supervisor, and co-workers are individuals with their own lives and their own stories. Be mindful.
I imagine that by now, you are ready not only for your first visit, but for every visit and every week after that until the CHiPS order ends and the case is closed. But, you may ask: What if my life situation changes and I can no longer serve and the case hasn’t ended? What if I cannot visit once a week? What if I only agreed to serve for one year, and the CHIPS order has not ended?
Remember that mantra: “Check with your CASA Supervisor!” Your close working relationship with your CASA supervisor will help you answer those questions together. Remember, just ASK. My experience was that only one of my five cases lasted longer than the agreed-to one year of service. My CASA supervisor and I (again, pre-COVID-19) had monthly get-togethers or lunches to catch-up. Today, with COVID-19, why not stay in touch with phone calls, texting, e-mails, and Zoom.
In closing this first ASK blog, I want to thank you for responding to the ASK CASA survey to initiate this ongoing conversation and for so candidly voicing your concerns. ASK CASA is driven by your questions, comments, and suggestions. Together, we’ll navigate shared CASA experiences; discover new, different, and illuminating perspectives; and stay informed about training and continuing education practices.
I am really looking forward to hearing from you to discuss all things CASA!
Until then, just ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know.