This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Kim Cashin!
Kim is an avid mentor and advocate to two foster youth. She is patient, understanding, and meets her CASA youth where they are at. Kim first heard about the CASA program several years ago while she attended jury duty. She admired the CASA’s mission and knew she wanted to become involved with an organization that worked with foster children. She was originally interested in becoming a foster parent and thought that a program like CASA would help give her insight in what the role of a foster parent might look like. Her friend is also a CASA in Orange County and has only heard positive things about the program from her. CASA seemed to be the right balance for her and decided to move forward with volunteering at CASA.
Kim was sworn-in at CASA OC in December 2019, right before the pandemic. She was matched with her first CASA youth in January 2020. She was able to meet with him in person, but once the pandemic hit, she was forced to connect with her CASA youth virtually. It was difficult to do, but eventually her diligent efforts paid off.
Kim’s first case started off as very challenging. It was very difficult to connect with him. She met John* when he was 16 years old a couple months before the pandemic. She describes John as polite, respectful, curious, and a philosopher. At first, he showed interest in going out with his new CASA. Then, he stopped showing up when she came to pick him up at his placement and did not want to do anything with her anymore. Kim kept showing up for him, but once the pandemic started the challenge became more significant. Faced with a challenge no one really knew how to navigate, she did what she knew best- she kept showing that she cared about him. She called the group home every week to check in on him, even though he usually would not come to the phone. The challenge continued, but Kim did not give up. Kim leaned on her case supervisor, Steph, for advice on how to best engage with John. Kim sent him letters and gift packages in the mail in addition to monthly telephone calls. It was not enough. Finally, when John was forced to move to a group home out of county in Northern California, Kim went to visit him. After a very long trip there, she arrived at his placement and John was surprisingly happy to see her. They sat out in the front yard of his placement and played games, like Monopoly Deal. John is very particular about time, but time did not matter to him when Kim came to visit him that day. Kim expressed that this was the turning point in their relationship. Kim’s persistence paid off and since that visit in Northern California, they continue to see each other regularly. He currently lives in a group home in Southern California and Kim visits him often. So many adults have let him down in the past that it is hard for John to open up to people. Kim feels like they now have a good relationship and can be silly around each other.
In addition to developing a trusting relationship with John, Kim also helps him advocate for his needs. Distance learning during the pandemic was not a good fit for John. He did not like attending virtual classes and did not engage during classes. John wanted to take independent study courses instead of attending a public school. So, Kim assisted him in making this happen. Kim worked with the group home and other players on his team to figure out how to help him become successful in school. Kim also taught him how to speak up for what he wanted and to advocate for himself. With Kim’s efforts, he started independent study a couple months ago and is doing well so far.
With the pandemic and uncertainty in whether Kim’s first CASA youth would want to continue with her, Kim decided to take on another case in the interim. Kevin* met Kim one year ago in April 2020. He is nine years old and has been through quite a lot of trauma. Kim describes Kevin as a silly, active, creative, and kind-hearted boy who suffers from anxiety. Kevin lives with his mother and does not like leaving her side. Kevin does not seem to enjoy engaging with his father and does not like going on Zoom because he associates it with his father (visitation with his father was originally over Zoom). Because of this, Kim and Kevin would Facetime instead, playing virtual games with one another and talking about various subjects. He calls her randomly to chat and invited her to his birthday party. He was quick to open up with Kim and was very chatty from the start of their relationship.
Though Kim connected with Kevin from day one, it was still challenging for Kim because Kevin did not want to leave his mother’s side. Kevin has anxiety and does not like to be away from his mother. Once CASA policy allowed for CASAs to have in-person visits again during 2020, Kim started to visit Kevin at his mother’s house every month. At first, Kevin did not want to go anywhere with Kim other than his front yard. He would constantly ask Kim if his mother could join them and he would always call out to his mother to make sure she was still near him during visits, sometimes he would run into his house just to give his mother a hug. His mother continued to encourage Kevin to go places with Kim. They continued to play games together right outside of his house, until he finally agreed to an outing with Kim. Their first outing consisted of Kevin riding his bike around the neighborhood and Kim walking alongside him. His mother continues to reassure him that she will be there when he comes back from his outings, but he is able to go out with Kim alone now. Getting Kevin to go out alone with her has been her greatest success so far on this case.
Kim has been an exceptional advocate for Kevin in court. Kim listens to his wants and needs and reports these to his social worker as well as his attorney. She has been his voice in court. Initially, there were concerns that his mother was coaching him on what to say about his father. But, in time, Kim figured out that Kevin wanted to be spend more time with his mother and less time with his father. He does not enjoy spending every weekend with his father and has a hard time sleeping at his father’s house. At the last court hearing, Kim advocated for Kevin to spend more time with his mother on the weekends because he told Kim he wanted this. Initially, he had visitation with his father every weekend but now, because of Kim’s advocacy in court, he is able to be with his mother every other weekend.
Throughout Kim’s experience as a CASA so far, she has learned to be patient and persistent. Relationships take time. If you do not feel like you are doing anything, just know that if you show up and show interest you are doing more than you realize. Kim expressed that, “though this line of volunteer work can be difficult at times, it can also be rewarding and encountering all types of people who are trying to help these kids as best they can gives me more appreciation and perspective for this line of work and I am happy to help these kids not be alone”. She is grateful to be a part of CASA and is especially grateful for the guidance and support from her case supervisor, Steph.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.
Kim’s case supervisor, Steph Bazurto, says “Kim began her CASA journey assigned to a youth who was showing resistance to making a connection. While she did not want to give up on this youth, Kim was presented with the option to take on a second, short term case as it was unknown if her youth was going to remain open to CASA. Kim accepted the second case, and a little over a year later, she is tirelessly doing an outstanding job managing both cases and remaining dedicated and committed to each of them. Kim is ready to jump in when and where she is needed to advocate for each of her cases. She is child focused, patient, kind, and a team player. I truly appreciate and admire Kim for the overall representation she brings to her role as a CASA”.