Tagged ‘CASA‘

Sorry Ass

It’s a miracle I got through this week.  I had a major report due to the State and a new training to prepare on top of the regular day to day.  Then, slam — on Monday morning, I was assigned my CASA case (CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocate).  Well, guess whose little can-do attitude got a little smack in the face. 

Oh my.  So I thought I knew how things work.  But there is a real big difference between reading about child welfare issues in the paper and trying to sort things out for just one child.  Things I learned at SDC when it was a down and dirty anti-poverty agency really helped me out this week:

  • If you don’t know what you don’t know, you are really in trouble.  However, if you know what you don’t know, you have a prayer.  If you’re in the first position, you make the huge mistake of making assumptions that are wrong, wrong, wrong.  If you’re in the second position, it’s just a matter of asking and listening.
  • Assume the best about everybody.  Practically nobody does things intentionally to harm another person.  The world is full of people who make mistakes; people who work really hard but don’t get beautiful outcomes.  It’s not a contradiction that few people are evil but lots of bad things still happen.
  • Make it personal.  Keep ‘there, but for fortune, go I’ as a mantra. 

That’s it.  I learned an awful lot this week – too long and complicated a list for here or anywhere else.  I’m heartened and exhausted.  And I’m taking my sorry ass to bed.

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If you hang around Jewish people like I do, you will eventually learn the term tikkun olam.  Very roughly translated, this speaks to an obligation for every Jew to help repair the world.  Of course, it’s hugely more complicated than that.  Everything in Judasim is.  I know this from many years as a Methodist person driving my three Nicaraguan kids to Hebrew school.  Oh, go scratch your head.  It’s ok.

So,  tikkun olam became one of my ‘take-aways’ from being Blondie at synagogue.  But how do you fix the world?  Well, I always liked to think that my professional work has a positive impact on the world but that I’m paid pretty well kind of erodes my point tally in the “Book of Life.”  Writing a couple of big checks every year, sure, that helps.  Mentoring younger professionals coming up, ok.  Serving on a couple of nonprofit boards, that’s fine.  Doing work for groups for free, absolutely should count.  But you know what all this stuff is?  It’s safe.

But now, I’m about to venture into new territory.  If not this week, within the very near future, I will get my first case as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate).  A CASA is a trained volunteer appointed by a judge to monitor a foster care placement and to advocate for the best interest of the child; the work involves weekly meetings with the foster child(ren), and regular contact with foster parents, birth parents, teachers, and other people involved in the child’s life.  I’ve been told that judges regard CASAs as  people with extremely valuable insight into how a foster child is doing and what he/she needs in the future because the CASA is the only person in the foster child’s life who is looking at all the pieces of the puzzle.

In my mind and what motivated me to pursue this is if a CASA had been monitoring Christopher Thomas, Jr.’s kinship placement with his aunt, he would be alive today.  If the name doesn’t ring a bell, google it and then prepare to have your heart broken.

So after mulling it over and finding a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t become a CASA, I took the 34-hour training course and was sworn in as a CASA by Childen’s Court Judge Yamihiro a couple of weeks ago.  Next step is the case.  I’ll get one case and I’ll have it for a year, minimally, maybe longer.

What’s the big deal?  This is so not me.  I don’t do direct services.  I write about direct services.  I describe people’s problems.  I don’t try to solve them.  You get where I’m going here?  Oh heck, I can talk to anybody and get information.  Give me 5 people in a desert, an easel and some decent markers, and I can run a focus group on jackrabbits.  But be up close and personal with people in serious trouble over a long period of time — oh, this is stranger in a strange land time for Jan. 

I feel prepared.  (Kids Matter, the local CASA coordinating agency, provides great training and support.) And I really feel challenged – to take on what’s not so ‘safe’ and comfortable.  To maybe stop talking and start walking, if you get my drift.  Wish me luck.  And think about what you are doing in the tikkun olam department.  Will keep you posted on how it goes.

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