This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Paloma Ocampo!
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, we wanted to spotlight one of our own, Paloma Ocampo. To Paloma, there was always something so special about CASA and she wholeheartedly believed in the CASA mission. She loved the idea of being able to work with a child one-on-one and the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the dependency world.
Paloma’s parents and older siblings immigrated from Mexico in 1989, because her parents wanted to offer her siblings a better life and education; Paloma was born just a few years after their arrival.
After decades here in America, her family continues to carry on the cultural traditions of their homeland. Paloma and her family celebrate Mexican Independence Day by dressing in traditional Mexican clothing and celebrating with one another. There is always a special event on television that day that they watch together. Their biggest and most important celebration is Christmas. They celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve and it is important to be with family on that day. They enjoy eating the traditional Mexican foods like tamales, pozole and arroz con leche to celebrate the holiday. Her father makes the best arroz con leche, and Paloma describes it as “heaven on earth”.
Paloma’s first match was with a four year old girl living in a foster home with a caregiver who only spoke Spanish. Because of their shared culture and language, Paloma was able to build trust with the caregiver and her CASA youth, making their bond even stronger. Paloma and her youth also share a similar taste for traditional Mexican food, something that her youth was used to eating before coming into care, which Paloma made note of for their outings. Her CASA child loves rice, which Paloma notes made past CASA events a hit when El Pollo Loco was being served.
In the beginning, her CASA youth was a shy little girl. She was nervous about doing things in public or about speaking up for herself. She is now eight years old and Paloma has seen her grow so much! Paloma is so proud of how far she has come. Her CASA child has learned to speak English and is making so many friends. She is so mature and wise for her eight years. Paloma credits her child’s entire team for this progress.
Paloma feels that the greatest success in her case was being able to help her CASA youth through some very difficult times and knowing that her CASA youth had a consistent person in her life when so many other people came and went. Paloma’s greatest challenge was accepting the fact that there is a process to the system and at times you just have to go with it. Paloma states that sometimes, even though you don’t agree, you have to accept things. There have been times during the case when she had concerns and worries about the plan for her youth, but she had to understand and trust the process.
Paloma talks about the many ways that advocates can put a light on their child’s heritage and culture. There are so many colorful and educational events going on in downtown Santa Ana on Fourth Street during Hispanic Heritage month (9/15-10/15), such as live music, art shows showcasing Latin artists, and Day of the Dead celebrations and parades. Something is happening every month in this little part of Santa Ana that celebrates this culture.
Paloma feels that having an open mind is one of the most important things to remember as a CASA and not to have expectations that things are going to go a certain way. You might think that you and your CASA child are going to connect right away, but it is important to remember it takes time to build a true connection. Just being there for your CASA youth, listening to them, reaching out to their team and voicing their needs is your most important role. She says it isn’t always a happy ending, but you have to accept that you did what you could. You spoke up for your youth and you gave them a voice.
Paloma loves that she is part of the team working for the child’s best interests. She loves being able to be at court and giving the court a picture of her CASA youth and what is needed. She loves being able to collaborate with her youth’s therapist to make sure her child is getting what she needs. Her least favorite part would be difficulties in getting in touch with certain team members, such as the social worker. This doesn’t stop Paloma at all. She accepts this challenge and always has plans and back up plans to get a hold of people.
Paloma feels that as a Chicana/Mexican American, it is important to be a positive influence in her community. She suggests that others like her should get involved in their own community. She states that unfortunately her community is heavily impacted and in need of people willing to help. She says that volunteering isn’t the only option and to just get involved, give back, and educate others in the community about the things going on within their community.
In her work as an advocate, she came to love everything about CASA and decided to take the next step and interview for a Case Supervisor position. She has now been working at CASA for a few months and she is happy to see that everything she saw during training—the commitment, shared goals and team work—carries over to the entire agency.
Her culture and upbringing has greatly influenced her role as an advocate and as a Case Supervisor. She was witness to the challenges her siblings faced growing up. She saw them struggle with school, struggle to learn English and deal with bullying. Seeing this has given her the understanding and appreciation of the obstacles immigrant youth and their families face here in America. She wants to be someone that can support and guide others going through similar things as she was able to do for her siblings.
Paloma says that being a CASA and working for the CASA agency has made her more humble. She admits that she has had challenges and struggles in her own life but when she sees how her CASA youth and her siblings have struggled yet are so happy and thriving, it really puts things into perspective. CASA is very lucky to have her as part of the team!
Paloma’s CASA Case Supervisor, Karyn Quick shares: “I have had the pleasure of being Paloma's case supervisor since December 2015. She is currently working on her second case for the past 4.5 years. Paloma was instrumental when her youth was to testify in criminal court. Paloma was by her side so her youth felt safe in a scary and unbearable situation. Her youth had a victim advocate too but she felt safer with her CASA by her side. Paloma has been a great advocate for her youth. I'm excited that Paloma has joined the CASA team as a case supervisor.”