Volunteers Talk About Their CASA Experience During Open House
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County CASA held an open house at McClintic Library in Marlinton on Monday. Two CASA volunteers told visitors about the realities of being a CASA – a court-appointed special advocate – for children. Katherine Thompson said her first two cases involved drug abuse.
“I’ve had a couple of cases in the last year, that I’ve been volunteering for CASA and, in both cases, the children had been removed from the home due to parental drug use,” she said.
Thompson said she’s able to work full-time and be a CASA.
“I’ve been able to maintain my full-time job with the CYAC and fulfill my CASA obligations, at the same time,” she said. “You have to visit, at least once a month, with the child, but you can more often if you want to. You have to take the time to talk to the people who are in that kids life, write reports and attend hearings. So, it’s very do-able. You can hold a full-time job and volunteer and make a difference at the same time.”
Being a CASA means talking to a lot of people.
“We talk to the biological parents,” Thompson said. “We’ll talk to grandparents, whoever is keeping the child, at the time. We’ll talk to school administrators, teachers and then, we visit the child, at least once a month, and kind of see how they’re doing and how they’re feeling about everything.”
Thompson says her work with CASA changed her life.
“It’s been incredible,” she said. “I’m actually going to social work school next year and I don’t know that I would have done that, had I not worked with CASA. I absolutely loved it and it’s been nice because I get to interact much more personally with the child. You kind of get to follow them from start to finish, which is really nice. I’ve been fortunate – both of my cases have ended up going pretty well.”
CASA Dorothy Reynolds says the job is not always easy.
“There is hard parts,” she said. “You see children hurting, because these children have been brought up a certain way. You can have the worst mom and dad in the world and you love your mom and dad. You think everything they do is right. They can hurt you. They can do all kinds of things but, they’re still your mom and dad and you still love them. It’s very, very hard for these children to be put into another home and have their parents replaced. You can never replace your parents. But, you know, that’s hard when you see these kids hurting over that.”
But the good outweighs the bad, according to Reynolds.
“And there’s good things happening, too,” she said. “You see these little kids blossoming. They just, ‘oh, guess what I did at school,’ and they’re achieving and they’re going on and they’re looking forward to something in their life. ‘Oh, maybe I can go to college someday. Maybe I can do something to help somebody else.”
“Who knows? It gives these children an idea that, ‘I can succeed at something.’ Even if it’s only to play baseball or do something in school and get an award for something that I never knew I could do before, because I was never really given the chance. That’s some of the things I like about CASA. You feel like you’re accomplishing something. Not everything goes perfect, everyday, but, at least, when you see these kids happy, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Reynolds encourages community members to volunteer.
“Anybody that has a love for children, a caring for children,” she said. “They don’t have to be wel-educated. But, you know, they just have to care; and, they can be in their twenties – they can be in their sixties – it really doesn’t matter, just have some time.”
“There’s a lot of people in this community that have time on their hands and say, ‘I ‘ve got nothing to do.’ Hey – this is an opportunity that you can help somebody. You can make yourself feel good and make these children feel good, because you can see good things happen to these kids. Believe me – it makes you feel good at the end of the day.”
CASA is swamped with dozens of cases. Fifty-four children are waiting for a volunteer. To learn more, call 304-645-5437.