For the past few years, I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors for our county’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program. CASA is a national organization that works on behalf of neglected and abused children in our court system. It’s different than social workers in that a CASA is a volunteer who is appointed by the court to speak on behalf of a child. The volunteer becomes the eyes and ears for the court, talking with family members, teachers, and others involved in a child’s life in an effort to find out what is needed for the best interest of the child. Oftentimes, kids can’t speak up for themselves, especially young children. And if a social worker or other agency is also working on a case, he or she may be working on behalf of the family; whereas, a CASA is working solely with the appointed child. Being a CASA volunteer is a weighty commitment and an important one. Sometimes a CASA volunteer is the one constant person in the child’s life, and cases where a CASA is appointed can last an average of a couple of years. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t need this organization, but it’s a sad fact that child abuse and neglect is more prevalent than most of us want to think about.
When I first heard of CASA, I considered being a volunteer myself; however, I knew I would have difficulty staying impartial and not getting personally involved. A volunteer is prohibited from doing things like buying gifts for the children or giving them rides to places or anything that is outside of the realm of court duties. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay unattached or unaffected. So instead I asked in what other ways I could be involved and was invited to sit on the Board since there are many committees and fundraising events that the Board is responsible for. So for the last few years, I’ve been involved that way. However, in the past several months it’s become more difficult for me to attend meetings and events. I don’t like feeling ineffective and I had begun to feel like I was. For that reason, I decided this week I needed to step off the Board and simply volunteer my time in more limited ways. Tonight was a planning meeting I missed, and I feel a bit guilty, to be honest. After all, it’s a cause I still believe a great deal in and I love the people I worked with. But I know it’s not fair to sit on a Board and not contribute in the ways I said I would. I also know that come Fall, when I begin my grad school classes and take on extra duties at work (I’m going to be the coach for the college’s speech team) I’m going to have even less time. It’s better that my spot open up for someone else to have the opportunity to contribute. So although I won’t be serving on the Board, I’m still very thankful tonight for the time I did.