BY JERÉ ANTHONY
To the person who has a heart to help, but lacks courage to take the first step… you are not alone.
The idea of becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate can be overwhelming. As a volunteer you are suddenly playing a role in a child’s life, contributing to their life’s story. During their time in the foster care system, you will develop a relationship with them and speak up for their best interest in hopes to make this turbulent life that they have been born into, a little bit easier. The heaviness of that responsibility can be scary. In fact, many people give up before they can even take the first step.
I was enlightened to these very tangible fears of not being good enough by a volunteer in training. She bravely spoke her fear aloud and was not met with judgment and ridicule, but with understanding and acceptance. I sat back and watched as the entire group came together in agreement that they didn’t know if they were “good enough” to do this. Her specific concern was her ability to put biases aside and hold back judgment upon meeting families.
This volunteer explained that in her job she has been programmed to make split second decisions in the interviews that she conducts. Because of her learned-tendency to judge, she was afraid that it would be hard for her to withhold judgment when something as terrible as child abuse has occurred. Many of the other trainees expressed similar concerns as well as the fear that they weren’t ready to be unleashed “out on their own”.
Hold on to your seats because this is the pivotal moment that unfolded before my eyes. We are lucky enough to have a therapist in our training class who brought a fresh perspective to light. His words were, “Don’t you think that any mother that you are dealing with, that seems to be unfit, already feels that way about herself”? The response that followed was one that I wish I could have trapped inside a jar and kept forever. In that moment the air around us changed and I felt the change of everyone’s attitude. If I could have described our energy as a color it would have been gray and in a single moment it transformed into yellow.
Everyone around the table saw just how perspectives can change in an instant, and it is all about your mindset. In no way does that excuse a parent from being abusive towards a child, but it can aide in the healing of an entire family. Our advocates aren’t just thrown out to fend for themselves either, they receive one on one continuous training from an Advocate Supervisor throughout their duration as a CASA.
So you see things are not always the way they may seem to you initially. Being overwhelmed about making such a huge commitment is normal. The fact that you have entertained the idea of taking action to make a child’s life better, is enough. You are enough just the way you are, and you won’t be going at it alone. Through training and personal relationships with our Advocate Supervisors you will be prepared to do this life-changing work. I hope that you can find the courage to take the first step, because there is great reward in doing this work.
I can’t promise you that you will instantly feel ready to do this work but I can promise that you will leave better than you came, and that is all we can really hope for isn’t it?