24 May Connection During Crisis
What happens when the entire world is facing a pandemic crisis? We huddle in our houses and limit all contact with others. At CASA, we recognized quickly that we needed to be part of the solution and we stopped our in-person visits on March 13, 2020. Like the rest of the world, we hoped that we would only be quarantining for a couple of weeks. Yet over 2 months in, we are still unable to resume our face to face contacts.
Pause for a moment and imagine what this must be like for the children we serve. Children that enter foster care have experienced multiple broken connections. When they leave their home, often with very few or no belongings, they aren’t just leaving parents behind. We know that their parental connections are huge, but the children we serve also leave their toys, rooms, and the space they feel comfortable in. They lose connections with extended family, neighbors, churches, coaches, and sometimes teachers, school, and classmates. Children also can’t always be placed in the same home with siblings although the Department of Children and Family Services strives to place children together. So many of their important connections get broken. The children that have been able to build new connections have now seen many of those connections put on hold. As adults, if we are having a hard time with how long this is dragging on, imagine what that seems like to a child who has a different sense of time.
At CASA, we know the value of connection. We understand that strong connections help build resiliency in children. We work hard to make sure the children we serve are able to maintain connections – with their parents, siblings, extended family and others in their lives. We collaborate with others to try to limit the number of placements children have while in foster care and to ensure they are able to stay in their school of origin whenever possible. Our CASA Advocates make connections with the children they serve, they get to know them so that they can share the child’s wishes with the court, advocate for their best interests, and ensure they receive the services they need while they are in foster care.
We haven’t liked not being able to see “our kids” face to face, but we have worked within the confines of the pandemic. We, like the rest of the world, have learned to use technology to have video calls/conferences with our children, their families, foster families, and the other professionals in the case. We’ve increased phone calls, video calls, emails, and other contacts. We’ve busted out cards, letters, and even postcards and sent them through the mail. We’ve attended court hearings and other meetings through Zoom and Google Meet. We’ve adjusted, but as soon as we are able, we’ll be knocking on doors and seeing children face to face.
One of the ways we have stayed connected with each other during the crisis has been to have virtual Coffee with CASA sessions multiple times a week. Advocates and staff get together for chats and also to problem solve any issues with cases. We’ve been so impressed with the ingenuity of our CASA Advocates over the last couple of months. During a coffee a couple of weeks ago, one Advocate shared that she has been working with a child she serves who struggles educationally. The child is writing a book with the help of the Advocate! The child writes and illustrates and then the Advocate has video calls with the child and they make edits. When the book is complete, the Advocate will publish it for the child. What an amazing way to build a connection!
Another Advocate works with a teenager who is in a residential placement. They speak frequently on the phone but the placement is unable to facilitate video calls. The Advocate needed to make sure the child knew how important she was, so she made a sign on a poster board, drove to the placement, called and had them bring the child to a window so she could see her CASA Advocate standing outside with a sign. Every child needs a caring adult in their life, who like this Advocate, makes sure they know how important they are.
That is what our Advocates do. And in doing all the extraordinary things, putting their hearts into getting to know children and families who are experiencing a crisis far more personal than a pandemic, and volunteering their time to fight for children’s best interests, they are changing children’s stories one child at a time.