I was sworn in as a CASA last November and was matched with a 6-year-old boy named Maurice a few weeks later. During the CASA training we heard quite a few horror stories and cautionary tales, so naturally I had a lot of concerns and apprehensions about the road ahead. Would I get along with Maurice? Would I get along with his foster family? Would I have a good rapport with his social worker, his lawyer, and all the other people in the system I would need to interact with? And, most importantly, would I be able to apply all the lessons and guidelines I was taught during the CASA training?
I can honestly say that the answer to all the above questions is a resounding “yes.” My experience of being a CASA has thus far exceeded all my expectations. Maurice and I seemed to “click” from the moment we first met. Our first outing was attending the CASA holiday party, and we both had a blast. We’ve had many enjoyable outings since then. We’ve gone to a Warriors basketball game in Oakland, a children’s play in Berkeley, a Mexican music concert in the Mission, an Easter pancake breakfast on Mount Tamalpais in Marin, bowling in Richmond, a dance concert at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, and the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. This weekend we’re going to Marine World in Vallejo to celebrate Maurice’s seventh birthday. Yes, we’ve gone to a lot of events and venues, but Maurice also enjoys just hanging out or taking a walk on the beach. And any outing that includes a McDonald’s Happy Meal is a winner, although I try to limit his junk food consumption.
Maurice is an outgoing, energetic little guy who seems remarkably well adjusted considering all the challenges he has faced and will continue to face. Is he an angel? Not at all, but have you ever met a 6-year-old who is? He can be mischievous, unruly, and uncooperative at times, but he is also a loving, sweet kid with a huge amount of potential.
What has made my CASA experience even richer is that one of my classmates in the training program, Amanda Clarke, is the CASA for two of Maurice’s sisters, who live in the same foster home. Amanda is great and we have gone on many beautiful outings together. Sometimes, when I am unavailable, Amanda has taken Maurice along on outings with his sisters, and I have done the same with the girls when Amanda is not around. I feel very fortunate to have such a great teammate to share outings and also to discuss issues and concerns.
Maurice’s foster mother has been extremely cooperative and supportive. Whenever I go to pick him up she welcomes me as if I were part of the family. And I also want to give a shout out to my CASA caseworker, Carly New Beers, who has been extremely supportive and helpful.
I suppose I should mention some of the negative aspects of my CASA experience, but there really haven’t been any. My only concern is that if and when Maurice gets adopted as I truly hope and expect he will be, I will really miss the little guy. But of course there are plenty of other great kids waiting for a CASA.