This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Debbie Logston!
Bringing joy, fun, and hope is Debbie’s style in her approach to serving others. From her earlier volunteer work serving the elderly community to her current role at CASA serving foster youth, Debbie feels blessed to be able to help others. At the end of the summer of 2014, after being prompted on three different occasions and in three different ways, she felt compelled to become a CASA. First, it was her friend at work who told her about her experience being a CASA. Then, it was the moving video she watched while waiting to be called for jury duty. Lastly, it was the amazing story she heard on the radio about CASA helping children find and connect with family members they did not know existed. That was it. Debbie knew she had to respond to the call to get involved. When asked about what specifically attracted her to CASA, Debbie quickly replies that she likes the one-on-one mentoring relationship she can have with a foster youth. The court piece is frustrating, she admits, but mentoring and encouraging the kids during their ups and downs is what she treasures most. She also likes that her role as a CASA is unique.
As Debbie reflects on her first case, she recalls that from the get go, *Charlie was somewhat shy, but easy-going, caring, and polite. Making a connection was easy. Debbie was careful to notice his simple acts of kindness which would then spark conversations. Since Charlie had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Debbie would also let him know that she was looking out for him by gently touching his hand or his shoulder to help him feel safe. She saw that this simple touch was a signal to him that she cared. Because Debbie was able to build trust with his biological family, Charlie felt that he could trust her as well. Charlie had social and family problems, so Debbie’s style was to come across as a friend who cared and was interested in him. As their relationship grew, Debbie felt that she could challenge him to be his best and to reach his potential. In their two and a half years together, their topics of conversation evolved from casual and superficial chatter to deeper and more meaningful talks.
Debbie’s second case is quite different in many ways. Her current match is *Gloria, a teen girl who has gone through homelessness, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and she suffers from mental health issues. It’s a different case altogether, but Debbie’s approach is the same - let the child know that she has someone she can trust. Gloria does not have any family connections, but in Debbie, Gloria knows that she has a mentor and perhaps even a mother-figure. Bonding with Gloria was made easy because early on, Debbie defined their relationship based on the time spent together rather than gifts or the amount of money spent on the outings. Gloria knows that connections are made through experiences and that it takes time. In over two years of working with Gloria, Debbie has been the only constant person in her life. Gloria’s perception is that Debbie is her “fun” person in her team, and this is true. But in a subtle way, Debbie also is the person who holds her accountable and encourages her to grow in her coping and decision-making skills. Without being overbearing, Debbie is a strong advocate for Gloria because she is always in the know of what is happening in Gloria’s life. This helps Gloria see the big picture of her plan of care. Gloria’s resilience is admirable. Debbie hopes that she has helped her along the way by showing Gloria that she is committed to her success.
When talking about what Debbie feels is her greatest success as a CASA, she identifies two things: being someone the youth trusts and being a permanent connection for them. She is still in touch with Charlie and his family, even though they have moved out of state. Debbie warmly recalls the honor of being invited as a special guest to an event celebrating the family’s successful reunification outcome. With Gloria, Debbie continues to pour into her life being her constant “fun” person, being a good listener, and being an honest friend who will encourage her and even hold her accountable when necessary.
Debbie goes on to share that being a CASA also has its challenges and frustrations. She notes that she is especially discouraged when the system works slowly and opportunities are missed. She is specially broken-hearted at the number of kids who linger in the system. If she had a wish, she would like to help prevent some of the issues that bring children to the attention of the Court. Debbie says that breaking the cycle of abuse is the solution to decreasing the number of kids in foster care. Because Debbie feels so deeply about these issues, she reminds herself to keep her emotional involvement in check so that she does not cross healthy boundaries. She admits that it’s hard to resist getting involved beyond her role, but she has learned to trust that she is doing her part by being a good CASA. She also realizes that others also have roles to play so it’s not all on her. Her goal is to be as impactful as possible within her boundaries. When thinking about Gloria, she wishes she could provide more, but finds comfort in knowing that she is the person who has the most longevity in Gloria’s team.
Getting to know her CASA kids is rewarding for Debbie. She also appreciates the community of staff and volunteers at CASA. She is thankful that through CASA, she has the opportunity to do good in our society. Her advice to her fellow CASAs is to take time to process thoughts and observations with the assigned case supervisor. Debbie tries to follow her own advice, which has helped her come up with creative ideas for the team to consider. Debbie would also like to tell other CASAs to try to meet the children at their level, to listen to what they want to do, to learn what makes them happy and brings them joy, and to be their stability in a not-so-stable situation.
In closing, Debbie would like to see a wider outreach so that more people become aware of the opportunity to help foster youth. She wants the CASA mission become more visible in our community.
Debbie's CASA Supervisor, Veronica Sansonetti, shares these words about Debbie:
"Debbie loves being the “fun” person for her CASA kids, but she is also a “tiger” when it comes to following up with the team for the needs of her CASA kids. Placing phone calls, sending emails or texts, entering notes in Optima, writing reports, researching, processing information with me, etc, are all important tasks that I can trust Debbie to perform - and she does it all with a good attitude! I love Debbie’s fun and easy going attitude paired with her tenacity and integrity. Debbie, we value your spirit of volunteerism and desire to spread awareness of our mission. You are a great CASA ambassador!"
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.