Neighbors and friends Marian Glass and Stephanie Roberts are celebrating their tenth “CASAversary.” The pair went through CASA training together over ten years ago. Since then, they’ve taken on some of CASA’s most challenging, complicated and time-consuming cases, including large sibling groups spread across the region. They’ve shared 11 cases involving 42 children and say they’re not planning to stop anytime soon.
What brought you to CASA?
Stephanie: I had been a first grade teacher for years and connecting with children was easy for me. The area where I taught had many transient families which caused lots of stress for the children. I learned the importance of stability, and we see that with our CASA children. We are their constant when they’re in care, and they need that sense of stability.
Marian: My middle child was getting ready to graduate, and I wanted to give back in some way. I was an adolescent/developmental psychology major, and I’ve always been interested in kids. CASA seemed like a good fit.
After ten years together, what are your thoughts on partnering?
Marian: I love it for so many reasons. It’s great talking over a case with Stephanie and bouncing things off of each other. At visits, one of us can talk with the kids while the other can talk with the caregiver.
Stephanie: Having someone to go on visits with has been great and it’s allowed us to take on large sibling groups, which we like doing. We often get cases with children placed in all different areas, and it’s nice to travel to pretty remote places with a partner.
Do you have any advice for new advocates?
Stephanie: Be open-minded and aware of what the children have gone through to be in care. Realize that CPS caseworkers have many cases and are not always accessible for your case. It’s important to know we don’t just interact with the children, but also CPS, therapists, schools, doctors, foster families and biological families – whatever it takes to have the children become successful where they are.
Marian: Be patient! It seems like so much information and unfamiliar terms, but it will become routine in no time. And always remembers it’s the children we serve – not the adults.
What makes cases go well?
Marian: Communication! Communication between everyone – CASA, CPS, attorneys, therapists and caregivers.
Stephanie: Getting counseling going for the children as soon as possible is so important. We have found that the children who begin therapy sooner begin to transition sooner and heal better.
How do you personally handle the emotional challenges?
Marian: Having a partner helps because we can discuss things. And knowing you are doing a really good thing for children.
Stephanie: It helps that we have education and psychology backgrounds between the two of us. But there are many cases that nothing can prepare you for.
Any tips for connecting with kids?
Stephanie: Visiting with the children once a month may not seem like a lot, but we are a constant in their lives. We sometimes take them out for a treat or a meal. We’ve found the kids will talk more freely when away from the foster placement, and we’ve never had a child not want to go for a treat or dinner!
Marian: This can be hard because every child is different and has gone through a different thing. The younger kids can be easier because they just want love and attention. The older kids can be challenging. It usually takes several visits and the consistency of our presence. Most like to talk about themselves, so asking lots of questions helps.
Is the role easier or harder that you expected?
Stephanie: I wouldn’t say either. Each case is different. It is hard to hear reasons why some of our kids have come into care. That never gets easy. But we treat each case differently according to the child and the reasons they have been removed.
What keeps you going?
Stephanie: As sad as it is that there’s a need for CASA, the role can have its rewards. Whether the children are adopted or successfully reunified, we are happiest when the children are safe, stable and able to be children.
Marian: We love the kids. For most of these kids, CASA is the only consistent person in most of their lives. We’re often the ones who know the children and the case the best.