This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Patty Rodriguez!
Patty has been a CASA since 2015. She first heard about CASA when her friend told her about the program. They started chatting more about CASA and discussed how volunteers mentor and advocate for children in the foster care system. Patty started to volunteer in her community early on in her adult life, so when her friend informed her about the CASA program it piqued her interest right away. She decided to attend an information session shortly after. Once she attended the information session, she knew she wanted to volunteer at CASA.
Patty has been on the same case since she started her journey as a CASA in 2015. Her CASA youth, Maria*, was 12 years old when she first met Patty. She is now 17 years old and will be 18 in February 2021.
Patty describes her CASA youth as smart, loyal, curious, resilient, funny, and a bit stubborn at times. She enjoys learning, has a passion for music and history and likes going on adventures with her CASA. WhenPatty first met Maria, she was very reserved and did not seem to want to share anything with her CASA. Patty was very patient with her and knew she had to develop trust with her first. It wasn’t until after about six months that Maria started to open up during each outing.
Patty soon learned that Maria had not been exposed to much before she met her CASA. She had never been anywhere besides her hometown of Santa Ana. Maria had never gone to the beach before, so Patty took her to the beach one day for the first time. She was afraid of the waves and thought that she would drown if she got too close. Patty reassured her that would not happen and that she was safe with her. Patty would also take her on “scenic” tours of Orange County and every time Maria was fascinated by what she saw- she was amazed at what else was out there in the world other than what was in her hometown. They still love to go on car rides together to see places Maria has never seen before as it is their favorite activity to do together. One of Patty’s favorite memories with Maria was when they went to visit Mission San Juan Capistrano. Maria loved exploring the mission and was intrigued by the Spanish history of the mission and the culture. Patty can’t wait to go on another adventure with Maria once they are allowed to go on outings again like the Mexican American museum and Olivera Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Patty could tell early on in their relationship that Maria had a truly kind heart and cared about others. One of their first outings was to a pizza place in Anaheim. Maria loved ordering the pepperoni pizza and piled parmesan cheese on top of her pizza every time. She often took home whatever she did not eat to share the rest with her brothers. As their relationship progressed over the years, Maria eventually learned about her CASA’s mother because Patty would often be out of town visiting her. Maria would always ask Patty how her mother was doing and when Patty’s mother passed away, Maria was there for Patty and asked to spend time with her at her mother’s grave. She knew how much Patty missed her mother and wanted to be there for her CASA just like her CASA was there for her during all these years.
Even though Maria did not tell her a lot in the beginning, she knew that with time Maria would be able to do so as long as Patty left an open door for her to talk. Patty does not force her to talk or to make decisions based on what Patty thinks she should do. In fact, Patty approaches these moments with patience and an understanding that they are not always going to agree. Patty meets her where she is at and hopes for the best outcome. In fact, at one point in time, Maria went AWOL and the one person she called was her CASA when she was ready to go back to her placement. Patty always told Maria that she could tell her anything and that whatever situation she was in they would figure it out together.
Over the five years Patty has been Maria’s CASA, Patty has seen her grow into the beautiful, strong young woman she is today. She is assertive and continues to be curious about life. For example, Maria is able advocate for herself as recently demonstrated when Maria wanted to move to a foster home. She was able to advocate for a placement change and is now in a foster home where she has shown maturity and growth. Since the pandemic, Maria has been able to reflect on her life and how important her CASA is to her. She knows that her CASA will always be by her side and appreciates that Patty is still in her life. Though they are not allowed to go on adventures together right now, they have reminisced about some of their favorite outings and they like to talk on the phone regularly.
Patty explained that the most important thing to remember about being a CASA is to continue to show up for your CASA youth and to be there for them through everything no matter what the circumstances may be. Patty shares that Maria recently told her that she “is the only one that has been there for [her] through everything”. Patty always let Maria know she was in her youth’s corner and Maria really appreciated hearing that from her CASA. Patty also expressed how grateful she is to have met Maria in 2015 and that she feels incredibly fortunate to have been on the same case the entire time she has been a CASA. She knows that the special bond she has with her youth, Maria, is rare, unique, and irreplaceable.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.
Patty’s supervisor, Yariza Amaton, shares: “In Patty's 5 years of service to our program she has been assigned to the same young lady. Her level of commitment and ardency to the CASA mission has been apparent through her CASA work. Patty has been there for her young lady through all of her ups and downs and various placement changes. I am always humbled by Patty's level of heedfulness to her youth and her needs. Regardless of her own personal life needs and demands, she has remained present for her youth. Thank you, Patty for being an astounding advocate and allowing me to share this voyage with you.”