Reflections

Young Girl looking in a mirror

Reflections

Looking back on 2020 it is easy to see only the negatives. We acknowledge that there were many negative things that occurred in 2020 and we have learned greatly from some of those things.  However, as we reflect on what the past year has brought us, we see the 232 children served by Pulaski County Court Appointed Special Advocates.  We see the 111 cases in three courtrooms that staff and CASAs made sure were still a priority in the midst of chaos and a global pandemic.  We see 121 dedicated people who volunteered their time for the best interest of children caught in the foster care system due to abuse or neglect. We remember the efforts they made to shift the way we served children to accommodate the safety needs we each faced due to Covid-19. We see 25 new advocates who dedicated their time to attend 30 hours of pre-service training in a virtual format so they could take on cases and advocate for children’s best interest even when they couldn’t initially see them face to face.

The work we do is not just about numbers, It is about children and families. We don’t share a lot about our specific cases because we respect the rights of the children and families to have confidentiality. However, without jeopardizing confidentiality, we want to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the amazing things we saw happen this year.

In the spring when schools closed their doors, a CASA Volunteer was very concerned about a little girl she represents. The young child was already struggling in school. In order to spend time with the child, encourage her, and help her educationally, the CASA came up with the idea for the little girl to write a book. That young girl came up with a very imaginative storyline. She spent hours illustrating her book and hours writing her story and then editing it via FaceTime with her CASA. Upon completion, the CASA published the book for the little girl. This sort of imagination and dedication helped ensure this child did not fall through the cracks either emotionally or educationally.

After months of sleeping in different homes in multiple towns a sibling group of five was reunited. The joy on their faces unmistakable. They hugged and laughed and played together with abandon.  It was not an easy task to get those siblings back together, but their CASA Volunteer was unrelenting. She had to be a bit of a squeaky wheel, but it paid off.  The CASA can sleep easier now knowing that progress has been made. It will not be the last hurdle for those siblings, but the CASA will be there each step of the way. She is committed to those five children. She cannot undo the trauma that they have already experienced in their short lives, but she can ensure they get the support and help they need to heal and that the future is a stable one for them. She can bring hope to those children.

This year a teenager walked across the stage and was handed her diploma. It was a hard won accomplishment for her, but she certainly earned it! Her CASA Volunteer was in the audience smiling from ear-to-ear. The CASA had received a call a few weeks before graduation telling her that the teen did not have enough credits to graduate. That CASA then spent hours digging through records to pull together all the documentation to show the child did have the credits, the credits were just not recorded properly during one of the teens many moves.  That CASA clapped as hard as she could as the teenager lifted her diploma in the air and waved to her.

Months ago, we received a call that we never want to get.  Children that were able to return home were having to return to foster care because they were no longer safe in their home.  It was heart-wrenching.  Within an hour, the previous CASA Volunteer was in agreement to again advocate for those sweet children and the process was started for her to be legally appointed so she could quickly see the kids and provide them with much needed support.

At Pulaski County CASA, we get to experience hundreds of stories like these every year. We laugh, we cry, and we continue to fight for the best interests of children.  A global pandemic did not stop child abuse and neglect, and it certainly did not slow down our volunteers. As long as children need us, we will be there.  We do not know what the coming year holds, but we can reflect on the past year with pride for the accomplishments of the volunteers who have chosen to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.

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