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Updates on My Case.

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Making Progress?

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My Second CASA Video Update

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My First CASA Video Update.
This week has been slow, not a whole lot going on with my case, so I am going to hang out with some of my CASA friends at a restaurant. The good thing is the restaurant we're going to will donate a portion of each check to CASA! CASA tries to do these fundraisers each week. Many restaurants participate, which is great.

I'm looking forward to seeing my CASA friends that I went through training with earlier this year. We each got assigned different cases, so it will be interesting to see who got what kind of case. I haven't seen many of them in a while. We all do other things besides CASA. We each have jobs or families, and with our hectic schedules it's easy to get out of touch . But Facebook has been an amazing way to keep in touch and schedule get-togethers. I think it will also be nice to talk about our cases with one another and give tips about how to deal with difficulties or anything to help the case along. From my perspective, it has been a lot of trial and error to see what works with my kiddo, the caseworkers, the therapists, etc. I try not to put my foot in my mouth when talking to these professionals, because I don't get paid for being a CASA and don't have as much experience as they do in dealing with the foster care system. When I'm in these staffing meetings, sometimes I don't know what to say or do. I try to interject concerns and questions I have, but to tell you the truth, sometimes I feel awkward. I think that is my lack of experience in this area. My other CASA on the case sometimes feels the same way. We are trying to establish our role in this case, and I feel that I'm still kind of watching on the sidelines. Court feels the same way. It's not that I'm scared to go into court, I feel that I don't have a lot to say about the case yet. Again, I think that it's a lack of experience.

As the case goes on I feel more and more comfortable. I am starting to feel that I'm getting into a routine, but I know new things will come up, and I will have to rely on my CASA supervisor to talk me through them. I hope I will start to feel more comfortable with my case. I will let you know soon!
Last time I wrote, I said that we (the team for the case) were going to have a staffing regarding the case. That went well. We all discussed our next court hearing in September and how we hope it will go. I met with my kiddo last Monday, and we had a good time! We went to Burger King and boy, can he eat! We talked about all sorts of things: school, his interests, movies, etc. I'm developing more of a relationship with him each time we meet, so that is very encouraging. Most teenage boys don't like to talk or have a conversation with someone who is older, so the fact that he is opening up to me is a very good sign.

I did talk with his foster mother while he was waiting in the car, and according to her he isn't doing as well as I thought. My kiddo is very personable, but when he is by himself at home, he has anger issues. It was sad to hear that, but he is working on that through therapy. I hope he will learn to control those emotions. On a more positive note, he is signed up for track at the high school he will be attending, so that is great. I was hoping he would get involved with a sport or some sort of extracurricular activity to channel his energy and devote his time to something worthwhile.

Our next court date is coming up soon, so I will let you all know how that goes. Bye for now!
Things have been going really well! Our team got an additional CASA on board for another child involved in this case, and it has helped tremendously. The other CASA has a good relationship with the mother of the children, and it's taking the case in a positive direction. I have not been able to have a relationship with the mother because of my role in the case (I wish I could share more about that, but it's confidential. Sorry!) 

Today, I'm meeting with my "kiddo" (a common CASA term to describe the child in the case without mentioning names. It's an affectionate term we feel comfortable using), so that will be good. I saw my kiddo last week for a foster care review at the Social Services building, and he is doing well. Things have changed for the better. I have a staffing meeting to go to on Tuesday so we can all discuss the direction the case is going in and how best to maintain positivity for everyone involved.

I have been devoting a little more time to the case now that things have changed, but it hasn't been overwhelming. It usually takes me about 10 hours per month, and that doesn't include court and drive time. This case has been going for quite some time, since 2007, and I came in four months ago. That typically isn't the norm to have a case that lasts that long, but this one is very complicated. The average time for a case to close is 18 months, but some can last two months! 

I'm very glad that I have gotten to know my kiddo. I wish I could hang out with him outside of CASA, but that isn't allowed. We have to maintain a professional relationship, which I understand. My kiddo and I still get to do fun things though. We meet at Burger King and talk over good food. 

Another thing I have enjoyed is getting to know the other CASA workers. We get to see each other at CASA events, and I saw some at the grocery store! We are all getting together for dinner soon as kind of a CASA reunion of sorts, so that will be fun to see how other CASAs are doing and how their cases are going. It's fun to compare and share tips with one another. It makes me feel not so alone and that I have a support group if I need to ask for help. I already do have a huge support system with the CASA coordinators, but it's just an added benefit to have my CASA friends who went through training with me to help.

I feel so good about how I got invovled in the case and how the case is going now. It was stuck for awhile, but now that there's light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like a huge accomplishment. It isn't over yet, but at least it's moving in the right direction. I wish I could help more kids in foster care, but the fact that I'm helping my kiddo, who really needs it, makes it all worth it. Kids in foster care are so lost, and everything is new and scary for them. If a CASA can help cushion the blow of being thrust into a new environment, that can mean the world to them. I wish more people knew how important this program is and how life-changing it has been to me. To help others, and to give back what I have been blessed with, makes me feel that I am making a difference. That's what this is all about!
Well, as an update from last time, I went to my second court hearing about the case. I attended a staffing beforehand with all the people who are involved with the case, such as the case worker, the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) and therapists. Sometimes at these staffings the child and/or the parent is present, which is common, but that was not the case here. We all discussed the case and what we could do to make the case go smoother and more quickly. Before this staffing meeting, the case was unfortunately stuck and was not going anywhere or getting much accomplished towards the goals that were set at the last court hearing. For the past few months, each court hearing had the same ruling and there were no changes to the case for a very long time. This happens with some cases so it is not uncommon. For a while I was wondering if my case was special, but I spoke with my CASA supervisor and she said that this happens a lot. At this staffing we decided that a new plan of action should be taken, so we discussed bringing it up in front of the judge. To complicate matters there was a new judge that was just assigned to the case, and this was to be her first hearing regarding it. When we brought up our new plan of action in court, there was some hesitation on the mother's side, but eventually she came around because what was happening so far wasn't working. The judge, after a great deal of hesitation, agreed to the ruling as well. The order was ruled only temporarily, for a period of 30 days, which we were all in support of. Hopefully, this new ruling will help this case along so we can all see results and progress. It is frustrating at times, but with this new ruling I am hopeful for a positive change. 

On another note, I wrote my first court report, and it went well. I was unable to complete some of the report, such as the educational section, as school is out for the summer. So I think having had not done that section made writing the report much easier. I had to reference my notes a lot, and try to come up with different ways of wording things, but it went very smoothly. My CASA case supervisor looked it over and made some changes, which helped put my mind at ease that what I was writing was clear and professional. One thing that has helped is a checklist that the people at CASA made for me that walks me through everything I need to do, like when I need to write the report, how often I should visit the child, etc. That has been very helpful.  

As I look ahead I am feeling good about my journey so far. I am meeting with the child on the case and the foster mother, so I hope that it will go well with these new developments that happened in court. I will update soon!
I had my first experience with the courtroom a couple of weeks ago. The atmosphere of the courtroom was very professional and non-threatening. I sat with the Guardian Ad Litem and the caseworker, and also the district attorney for the case. The mother of the child that is involved in my case sat on the other side of the courtroom with her attorney and the child's father's attorney. The father was not present. Since I had only been on the case a short time, I had no court report to present to the judge, and I said so when she addressed me. We all discussed the case and what each side perceived of the situation. However, at the end of the court hearing nothing had changed. The orders remained in effect for the case. The whole experience was very smooth and I was not nervous at all. I wasn't expecting to be nervous about going to court, because while I was in training CASA had me observe a real court hearing. It was such a good experience to know what to expect when I had to go in on behalf of my child in the case. I also had a case supervisor with me, which also was reassuring. So all in all my first court hearing went very well! I'm excited to go to my next hearing next month, and I will report more about that experience soon.
My name is Anne Marie. I'm 27 years old and live in Colorado. Ten years ago I was injured in the Columbine shootings that happened April 20th, 1999. As a result, I now have a spinal cord injury, and I use a wheelchair to get around. I have since graduated from Columbine High School, and earned my bachelor's degree in Business. I work as a manager at a retail store, but wanted to do something more to help others the way I was helped 10 years ago when I was first injured.
When Columbine first happened, I remember feeling scared and uncertain about the future when I was in the hospital recovering from my injuries. I wasn't sure how I was going to live life, let alone deal with the horrible flashbacks and triggers that would cause anxiety from what happened at Columbine. But I had help. There were many people around my family and I, guiding us and caring for us. Many were social workers, a lot like the people who volunteer for CASA. Looking back at those people who helped me, I wanted to do something like that to help other kids who were going through a hard time.

That is when I got involved with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). I recently completed training in January, and was assigned my first case. Getting involved meant so much to me because I was giving back some of what had been given to me. I remember the uncertainty, the fright, the anxiety that many of the children who have had terrible experiences were going through. These children have been victims of horrific abuse and neglect. CASA programs help children who are going through these things. They are there for the children, no strings attached. CASAs are some of the only people who can really devote their time and resources to help these children. Social workers handle so many cases at a time, but a CASA is only devoted to one case at a time.

When I got my first case, I was nervous, but then I had help around me with the CASA caseworkers being there for support. If I have a question I ask them, and they answer it. I feel like I have a support system in place so I can do the best job I can to advocate for this child. Even though I am new to the case, I feel so privileged to be the one who is there for this child. It is up to me in a large way to listen to this child, to care for this child and do what is right. I have gotten really positive feedback from the child so far, which is a huge blessing. I can only wait and see how everything will turn out, and I am still learning along the way. I am excited to see where this case will head.

Last month, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Phil and his wife Robin at the CASA National Convention. We discussed our passion for helping children through CASA, and they had the great idea that I could write a blog about my experiences starting out as a new CASA. Dr. Phil thought it would be a great way to show people what is involved with becoming a volunteer right from the beginning. So, that is what I hope to accomplish through this blog. By the time of my next entry, I will have attended court for the first time and will have gathered more information relevant to my case. I look forward to hearing from all of you!
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