Greetings. Happy & Healthy 2021! May the year ahead be full of positive and enriching events. May your CASA case enable you to grow in your understanding of children as children who have their own special needs, their own special dreams and fears and triumphs, and some particular wisdom that is their very own.
In this end-of-year blog for ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know. – where your questions, concerns, and comments help focus the dialog, I’m going to dedicate this space to talking with you about ‘Good Fit’. No, it’s not about how our T-shirts and sweatpants fit and feel after the holidays. It’s not about how we prepare and present ourselves for Zoom meetings where no one can see the warm, fuzzy socks or comfy slippers! No. Not that at all!
Good fit is about you as a CASA Advocate and your relationship to your CASA case. How long have you been working on your current case? Are your visits rich and rewarding? Do you feel or see progress? How often do you talk with your CASA supervisor about your case? Does your CASA child welcome you with the Happy Dance? Do you look forward to each visit? Do you question whether or not you are effective? Are you at the end of your one-year commitment to CASA and not sure you’ll re-up? Does any of this sound familiar?
Good fit is the term I’m using for you to consider how you fit with your CASA case. Now, you may think, “I fit just fine. Thanks anyway, Miss Deb.” Great! For most CASA Advocates, yes, their fit with their case is a good, if not great one. Supervisors work diligently to match a CASA with a CHIPs case. As with anything though, sometimes the fit isn’t good or the fit has changed over time. If this speaks to you, let’s talk about what a not-good fit could look like and feel like.
A not-good fit might look routine and uninspired. A not-good fit might feel like a chore or obligation. A not-good fit might look like nothing ever changes. A not-good fit might feel like you are not welcome for the visits. A not-good fit just doesn’t look or feel positive and encouraging. If you’re nearing the end of your one-year commitment to CASA and your case has not closed, a not-good fit might be whispering in your ear that you should stop being an advocate. Please don’t! Read on to see how and why one of my cases was a good fit for 4 years! Read on to learn about how you can change your case from a not-good fit to a very good fit!
My last CASA case was a 4-year commitment, but I didn’t know that at the beginning. The children had been in the system and under a CHIPs order working with another CASA Advocate for well over a year prior to my taking the case. The two boys were 2 and 4 years-old when I first met them. The 2 year-old was in diapers and non-verbal. The 4 year-old was shy and quiet, initially. I was just another adult in their lives. I’m sure they didn’t always understand why I was visiting them.
Prior to my taking the case, my supervisor and I met to review a few cases, discussing the pros and cons of how my elementary teaching career might impact each case. We both felt my skills were well-suited to work with the two little boys, their young mother, maternal grandmother with step-grandfather and uncle (same age as the 4 year-old), and maternal great-grandparents. Not only were there a lot of players in this case, there were a lot of changes in the locations for the weekly visits: great-grandparents’ home with mom, grandma, step-grandpa and young uncle, various day care settings, government-run early childhood programs, Tribal programs, public school, and ultimately, young mom’s new home in another county where she welcomed new boyfriend, step-son, and new daughter.
For me, this case was a good fit. As I followed the boys from place to place, I watched them grow, develop language skills, loose teeth, learn to ride bikes, how to read, and to love math. I observed them living and thriving with grandma, step-grandpa and young uncle in great-grandmother’s home. I saw a young, inexperienced mom with legal issues of her own other than custody, grow into a confident, capable, loving mom to four children, and manage college part-time. I was part of the little one’s life for 4 years – two-thirds of his existence at that point, and one-half of the life of the older boy. I witnessed both boys smiling and laughing as they proudly showed me their own bedrooms in their new home. Eventually, they did the Happy Dance when I arrived and stood at the window waving good-bye when I left. They embraced a new family life with mom’s new boyfriend and his son, and doted on their new baby sister.
It was a good fit because my supervisor and I met initially to discuss possible cases, and then agreed on the two little boys. It was a good fit because I met with my supervisor once a month (usually over lunch) to discuss how I felt the case was going. We made joint visits once a month so my supervisor could observe our interactions. Over the last year of the case, these monthly visits included 40 miles of non-stop talk while driving to visit the boys in another county, and then 40 miles of non-stop talk to digest the visit on the ride home. It was a good fit because my supervisor and I were connected with the case. We had good, strong, consistent communication. Monthly reports were completed and read timely. It was a good fit because my supervisor and I had a formed a great CASA friendship. Yes, COVID-19 now presents new challenges to building relationships. What clever ways are you using to stay in touch? Here are a few I can think of right now: Zoom, e-mailing, texting, exchanging pictures, calling, writing notes and using snail-mail – lol!
But, what if the case hadn’t been a god fit? What if those four years with all the players and all the locations weren’t good fits? What if I wasn’t welcomed in great-grandmother’s home? What if the day cares, early childhood programs and schools hadn’t allowed me to visit? What could I have done? What should I have done? Remember the CASA mantra: “Check with your supervisor.” Ask for guidance and know that your supervisor and your local CASA program are required to be accessible to you.
And, take to heart these reassuring words from Judge Ramona A. Gonzalez, Circuit Court, LaCrosse County, in her November webinar for the Wisconsin CASA State of Awareness program series in asking her CASA Advocate audience: “How do you stay fresh?” The audience responded with a variety of time frames from a few years to 18 years! Astonished, Judge continued:
“There is no need to suffer your appointment. It’s OK to ask for change if the fit is not right for the child.” CASAs have, “intimate relationships with the children [because they have the] time, energy, and talent to be where the Judge cannot be.”
A good fit puts the needs of the CASA child first by recognizing the privilege we, as CASA Advocates, have to cultivate trust with our CASA child, the CASA family, and the courts.
Don’t suffer your appointment. Change is good if it’s right for the child. Stay connected with your CASA supervisor via whatever means to discuss your case and your fit. Befriend your supervisor and know yourself to know what is right and best for your CASA child.
Thank you for making this blog part of your CASA reading. Keep your questions, concerns, and comments coming for ASK CASA – Ask. Seek. Know. – the place where we can connect about all things CASA for CASA Advocates. Looking forward to hearing from you about what you want to discuss in this blog that is just for you. Until then, just ASK – Ask. Seek. Know.
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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...