By Lydia Taylor

Dallas CASA intern

The global pandemic has changed every part of the way we function as a society. Four longtime Dallas CASA volunteers, who advocate for children who have experienced abuse or neglect, shared their experiences about how the pandemic has impacted the children they work with.

Sarah Smith, a Richardson volunteer of over 7 years, said that there are pros and cons to being online. Virtual interaction makes it easier because it saves time and gas money. However, it makes things harder because she gets a small picture of the situation virtually.

Sarah said that one positive about the situation is that “every child, no matter what, is in the same boat.” Every family has different access to resources, but we all went through this together.

Priscilla Anthony, a Grand Prairie volunteer of four years, worked on two cases during the pandemic. One with a set of three brothers under the age of seven, and another with a 16-year-old girl. With everything being virtual, it was harder to keep the kids’ attention. However, Priscilla made it work in unique ways.

She knew that the teenager missed the quality time that they used to spend together. They were able to text and FaceTime, but it just wasn’t the same.

“We are both foodies,” Priscilla said. They missed going out for brunch and trying new food places, so Priscilla decided: why not bring the food to her?

For their first in-person visit, Priscilla brought over some Starbucks coffee. The teen sat in a fold-out chair in her driveway while Priscilla sat in her car, and they enjoyed their coffee together.

To help the three boys, Priscilla sent a huge box full of snacks, coloring books, and other engaging activities.

The oldest boy had trouble with his reading skills, so Priscilla offered to tutor him virtually. Through the screen, she showed him flashcards and read him books that kept him engaged.

These interventions made a big difference for the boys. By the beginning of the next school year, all three were ahead of most kids in their classes.

“There was nothing we could do. [The kids] just had to keep learning,” Priscilla said.

Gabriel Meadows, a Richardson volunteer of seven years, realized that the pandemic hasn’t affected foster children much differently than it has affected the rest of the world. Virtual learning has had a drastic impact on children’s academic success. Not only that, but it took away quality time with the influential people in their lives.

“There is no substitute for one-on-one time together,” Gabriel said.

For Larry Dolan, a Dallas volunteer of 25 years, “the inability to be there was a liability.” However, the relationships he had with each family gave him peace of mind. The pandemic changed the norm, but working with people who were willing to adapt changed the course of his advocacy.

“Connection is critical,” Larry said. Your only choice is to adapt, be creative and keep going, he said.