At only 33 years old, Dallas CASA volunteer Michelle Chapman has an impact on children that belies her age. A sworn advocate since 2010, Michelle has worked on eight cases involving 21 different children. She says her role is a positive one. She doesn’t dwell on what happened to the children she served but instead focuses on their futures, helping each abused or neglected child into a loving and supportive home.
Do you have one moment that showed you the true value of a CASA volunteer?
I’ve seen that many times foster parents or relatives feel more comfortable talking to their CASA volunteer about the children or the case. There have been times that some details from these conservations about the children or case have slipped past Child Protective Services or the guardian ad litem. At those times, I have been able to inform them about key details that could help determine the outcome of the case.
Is there one case that’s stayed with you?
Each case is so different and meaningful in its own way, so they all stay with you a little bit. When children end up in a loving, supportive environment, you know you’ve done your best.
What do you tell your friends who say being a CASA is too demanding?
It’s worth it! It can be a little overwhelming at first as you try to put into practice all you’ve learned in training, but once you get the routine it becomes something you look forward to. Other than court dates, everything else is flexible to your schedule. Plus, supervisors are there in case you feel overwhelmed.
You’ve been an advocate for several years. What keeps you going?
Seeing children end up in a better situation than when they started just never stops being amazing. These kids are what keep me coming back.
How has being an advocate been different than you expected?
When I first became an advocate, I assume that I would constantly be thinking about the abuse or neglect suffered by the children in my cases. But my mindset has changed since then. I now understand that the abuse or neglect has happened, but I’m able to look past it and toward the future. That is our job as CASAs – to not dwell on the past, but to make the future as bright as can be for the children we serve.