This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Janet Miller!
Janet has always had a passion for children and families. She has a master’s degree in social work and first heard about CASA while she was attending graduate school. Professionally, she uses her social work skills at the macro level as a policy analyst. When she eventually moved back to her hometown of Orange County a few years ago, she wanted to give back to her community in some way, and so, she looked for volunteer work that focused on helping children and families directly. When she stumbled upon CASA, she knew she could use her social work skills when working directly with youth. Though she had her reservations at first, given the two-year commitment and 30 hours of training she had to complete before becoming a volunteer, she ultimately decided to make the commitment to be an advocate and mentor to foster children - that was five years ago.
Janet has been a CASA volunteer since 2015, and she has been a CASA to the same young man throughout her entire time as a CASA thus far. She first met Jacob* when he was 14 years old. Today, he is 19 years old and only has two more years left in extended foster care before he ages out of the system. Janet has been his support system and constant in his life through it all; she has watched him grow up and become the amazing young man he is today.
When Janet first started as a CASA she was anxious about starting her new role. Janet always tried to plan the perfect outing for Jacob- she spent many hours brainstorming fun outing ideas. It wasn’t until well into her case that she realized she was overthinking it. Jacob did not care about what they did on their outings- it was more about the time they spent together and the fact that she consistently showed up to see him. She discovered that Jacob was most content with just hanging out and grabbing some food. Janet shared that, “consistency and reliability are more important than what type of outing you have planned for the day”.
Janet could never really tell if Jacob enjoyed spending time with her since he was so quiet and just went with whatever she had planned for their outing. Though he didn’t say much on their outings, he continued to see Janet every month; and,with time, he was able to develop a trusting relationship with her. To this day, after 5 years, he is still quiet around Janet and typically gives her one-word answers. She continues to be his constant so that he knows she will be there for him if he needs her one day. Janet learned how to adjust her expectations in order to meet him where he is at. Most importantly, she learned that silence is okay.
When Janet was first assigned to Jacob’s case, he had a stable placement. Unfortunately, he soon lost his placement and began to move from placement to placement. He was very resistant to each new placement, so he began to consistently AWOL. At one point, he went AWOL for about four months. No one knew where he was, as he had changed his cell phone number. Jacob decided to call one person during his AWOL- it was Janet. In that moment, she realized how important she was to him. She was there for him and there to listen. Those first few months of developing trust helped to lay a solid foundation for their relationship.
This year, Jacob managed to get his first job at a restaurant all on his own. Initially, Janet would help him apply for jobs by taking him to the library to fill out online applications and taking him to grocery stores to ask for an application from the store manager. He used to never look for job openings unless Janet was there to guide him; but, with a little encouragement from Janet he felt empowered enough to apply for jobs without any help. She is very proud of him and she has seen so much growth in him since they first met five years ago. Janet continues to help him with his independent living skills as he will be on his own soon. She recently assisted him in opening up his own bank account and learning about money management. She is also encouraging him to get his GED.
Janet would like to express to other CASAs who are having difficulty or may feel stuck on their case to reach out to their case supervisor. Janet feels like she has greatly benefited from the conversations she’s had with her case supervisor- it is best to brainstorm and talk it out with someone than trying to figure it out all on your own. She also advises other CASAs to be consistent, patient, and to continue to show up for their youth.
Janet’s case supervisor, Yariza Amaton, share this about her: “Janet became part of the CASA organization in 2015. In Janet's almost 5 years of dedication to our program she has been assigned to the same young man. Her level of commitment and passion to the CASA mission has been apparent through her CASA work throughout the years. Janet has been there for her youth through thick and thin; through his 25 placements, his absconding periods in an attempt to find equilibrium in his life, and his various school placements. I have been impressed by Janet's level of attentiveness to her youth and his case. Regardless of her many personal life changes she has remained present and consistent with her youth. Thank you, Janet for being such an amazing advocate and allowing me to share this journey with you.”
*Name changed for confidentiality reasons