Chefs in the Making

Since the holiday months, there has been a steady stream of advocates and their CASA youth cooking in CASA’s kitchen. This has been a particularly pleasant experience for the case supervisors as the hunger inducing aromas waft down the hall. It’s safe to say the smell of cookies, cupcakes, and other sweet treats is an office favorite. Even better than the yummy aromas is witnessing these youth in the kitchen.For many, this is the first time that they’ve cooked or baked regardless of age.

Depending on when you peek your head in, you’ll find the youth looking fiercely determined to carry out their advocate’s instructions, or laughing and smiling as they decorate their treats or joke about mistakes made. You’ll find the advocate patiently explaining things and praising their youth for their effort and skills. These moments are greatly appreciated because as case supervisors, the opportunities to see our advocates with their youth are few and far between. Whether the relationship is a new one or the advocate has been on the case for several years, there’s an unmistakable joy to be together. As if that isn’t heart-melting enough, seeing a youth’s pride in themselves when they get something right.

During one of these kitchen sessions in which at least 2 dozen cookies were being baked and decorated, our Chief Program Officer, Regan Phillips popped her head in to say hello. I happened to be walking to the kitchen to check in on my advocate and youth when I overheard the best thing I’d heard all day. Claire*, my advocate had just finished explaining to Regan that this was 7-year- old Liz’s* first time baking. Regan complimented Liz on how well she was doing, saying, “Wow. Well you must be a fast learner if this is your first time!” To which Liz replied, “I am a fast learner because I’m really smart!” Claire, Regan, and myself could only agree with that declaration. To see Liz’s excitement in baking and decorating, was great a pleasure all on its own. But to hear Liz confidently exclaim her smarts took the cake (pun intended)!

In the CASA kitchen, it seems everything else falls away. Here, they are determined, happy, and undoubtedly getting amped up on the sugary decorations they think they are sneaking. These kiddos likely face daily reminders of the fact that they are foster youth, whether it be classmates wondering why different people pick them up from school on different days, or at a doctor appointment where a staff person is writing their job title next to their signature when signing documents. One could say even being in the CASA kitchen is a reminder, and they would be right. Yet for some reason, these visits are full of nothing but joy. And though the aromas eventually fade, in what seems to be a new unspoken rule, advocates and their youth leave lovely thank yous on our whiteboard.

 Thus far, there hasn’t been a single time that the finished result wasn’t eagerly offered to be shared. And who can turn away a child offering up cupcakes and cookies with at least 7 times the daily recommendation of sugar? I know I couldn’t! I can confidently say that our entire office enjoys our visiting sous chefs and advocates and returns are always encouraged.

 If you’d like to reserve CASA’s kitchen please contact your case supervisor. We’ll see you soon!

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