Brooke is a remarkable, child-focused volunteer who has been a CASA for one year. She understands the importance of consistency in a young person’s life and knows the value of keeping her word. Brooke first heard about the CASA program several years ago when she was watching a Dr. Phil episode on television. She was very moved by the story of a young man who was constantly moving from placement to placement with no one by his side. He wished that through his time in care there was at least one person in his life he knew he could count on to be there for him through it all. That sentiment stuck with her and once she had time to commit to a foster youth, she signed up to be a CASA volunteer in 2020.
When Brooke was assigned to her CASA youth, Briana*, she was anxious and nervous. She did not know what to expect. At first, Briana did not engage with Brooke. It was awkward and Brooke was not able to connect with her like she thought she would. Going into this volunteer program, Brooke thought she would be matched with a little girl and thought it would be easy for her to navigate as she has kids of her own. What Brooke did not know is that most children in the foster care system who need the most support and consistency are teenagers; and so, when Brooke was matched with a teenage girl, she did not feel prepared.
In the beginning of their relationship, Brooke tried to engage with Briana by checking in with her via text message on a weekly basis. The responses were minimal, if at all. Brooke was at a crossroads and asked for guidance from her case supervisor on how to get Briana to engage with her. It was not until there was a team meeting for Briana that her CASA spoke to her for the first time. Brooke waited until the end of the meeting to directly ask Briana if she wanted to get together that week. Briana agreed and after their outing of bedazzling face masks, Briana was more responsive than before and they started to go on outings regularly.
Brooke was matched with Briana during the thick of the pandemic in 2020. Brooke shared how difficult it was to navigate how to build and develop a relationship during a pandemic, especially one with a teenage girl. Outings were very limited, so most of their time spent together thus far has been sitting outside in the backyard of her group home, socially distanced and with face mask coverings. Though starting out as a CASA during the pandemic was challenging, Brooke could not have done it without the support from her case supervisor. Her case supervisor is always there for her when she needs to vent, talk through a situation, and answer questions. Brooke was unsure how her match would go, but with advice and encouragement from her case supervisor, she slowly but surely developed a wonderful bond between her and her youth.
Brooke describes Briana as a beautiful, artistic sixteen-year-old girl who loves to dance and is not afraid to speak her mind. She likes to shop, watch movies, and test out different makeup and hair color styles. She has been in foster care since 2016 and has been to more than fifteen different placements since she first came into care. She recently reconnected with her biological family and CASA continues to be an active part of her family finding process. Currently, Briana is doing well in school and will be moving to a new foster home soon. Briana has been to so many placements already, but she is looking forward to the new environment and change. Brooke stated that Briana feels like so many people in her life have left her behind which is why Brooke feels so strongly about being her one constant and reassuring her that when she moves, she will be there by her side- she is not going anywhere.
Brooke expressed that the most important thing to remember about being a CASA is to be patient, listen intently, and be open minded to your CASA youth’s experiences and situation. Brooke also reminds herself daily that she is not her youth’s parent and giving advice to her youth is not always what she wants- if she asks for advice, she will give it to her, otherwise she will listen with a supportive ear. Brooke expressed that, “every day is a small step towards success. It is the baby steps that matter.” Brooke likes knowing that her youth is getting something out of this relationship: a friend, a mentor, an advocate- someone who is in her corner now and always will be.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.
Brooke's Case Supervisor, Michelle Oliveira, shares: “Brooke has been a CASA for just over a year. She is matched with a youth that has faced so many challenges throughout her life. Brooke has shown patience, consistency, and compassion for this young lady. She has stayed child-focused and advocates for her youth in all areas. Brooke also seeks guidance and does well collaborating with the team. As her youth faces even more challenges and changes in her life, she can be assured that her CAA will be there right alongside her!”