This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Kristy Ulley!
Kristy has an enormous heart and a passion for giving back. She first heard about CASA when she saw an ad for the organization and knew right away that this was her calling. She had always wanted to volunteer, but never had enough time- she is a single mom and always had a packed schedule taking care of her son. When her son graduated from college, she finally had enough time to give her heart to something she was passionate about.
When Kristy started the 30 hours of training at CASA she found it to be so informative and interesting to learn about the foster care system and how to be a constant in a young person’s life. She knew she had found the right cause for her. She was sworn in December 2018. When her case supervisor called her about a possible match, she was excited, eager, yet nervous. She wanted to be matched with a teen mom, and CASA found the perfect match for her. She accepted the case and started a journey that would not only impact her youth’s life, but her life as well.
Kristy’s CASA youth is a single, 17 year old mother who has a beautiful smile and kind heart. Their first visit was at Juvenile Hall while she was pregnant with her first child. Lily* easily opened up to Kristy from day one. When Kristy first met Lily at Juvenile Hall, she knew right away that she was a good person. She was kind, mature and shook Kristy’s hand right away. From the beginning, Kristy was able to easily develop a trusting relationship with her youth and was able to understand her struggles as a teen mom, as she had once gone through that experience herself.
Lily has been in the foster care system for ten years and has had sixteen placements. She has been in trouble with the law a couple times and has a history of AWOLing (absent without leave) from her placements. She has no one in her corner- her two siblings were adopted and she does not have any contact with the paternal or maternal side of her family. The father of her child and his mom are the only people whom she considers family.
Kristy describes her advocating style as informative- to just be present and to listen. She never judges her youth or pushes her to do something she is not ready to do. So, when Lily decided that she would like to stay in the foster care system once she turns 18, Kristy was thrilled. Kristy describes this as her greatest success as a CASA so far- encouraging her youth to stay in the foster care system after her 18th birthday. They discussed the benefits in length, talked about budgeting, going to college, goal setting, and the continued support that would be provided to her until she turns 21. Lily would like to go to nursing school once she graduates from high school and, ultimately, wants to work with the geriatric population.
Kristy’s greatest challenges on this case have been working within the system and the commute to Lily’s group home in Perris every month. Kristy finds it challenging to advocate for her youth in court, but always encourages Lily to attend her hearings so that she can voice her needs and wants to the Judge herself. Kristy sees Lily every 2-3 weeks at her group home in Paris, CA. She travels an hour and a half each way to see her youth for a few hours. While outings are limited, Kristy has managed to find creative activities for them to do. Kristy introduced her to scrapbooking when they created a baby photo album together of her son. She also introduced her to goal setting and financial management. Lily did not understand what the word ‘goal’ meant until she met Kristy.
Kristy has been a CASA for about a year now and has already made a huge impact on her CASA youth’s life. She is a compassionate, committed advocate who has modeled what a healthy, positive relationship looks like and empowered Lily to make her own choices. She has been the one constant in her youth’s life and has been able to give her a voice when she needs it the most. Kristy expresses that “this has been a humbling experience so far and [I] love being a CASA to my youth”. Kristy’s one piece of advice to other CASA advocates is to always make commitments that you can keep.
Kristy’s case supervisor, Donna Doocy, shares this about her:
“Kristy has been a CASA for about one year and glided into her role as an advocate from day one. She has worked with a teen parent who lives in Riverside County and has driven from her home in LA County once a month to visit to visit her as well as SKYPE to maintain contact. Kristy has not only taught her youth how to budget and shop but has also role modeled superior parenting skills. Kristy has always been there for her youth which has included being a voice for her in Court and with her social worker. She is encouraging, supportive and understanding. Kristy is a prime example of what a CASA looks like! Thank you, Kristy!”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality