Interview!

Giving Back With Mary Beth Evans

Credit: Getty

Just Cause: CASA, www.casaforchildren.org

What is CASA? “It’s [an acronym that stands for] court-appointed special advocate for abused or neglected children. You take a six-week [training course], and then a judge swears you in. I started about five years ago.”

What do you do as a CASA volunteer? “There are so many kids in the foster care system, and there are only so many social workers. A CASA volunteer is one-on-one with the kid to make sure that everything is in place for them. There are so many different possibilities of things they might need. You take that information and you figure out how to do it. That’s one aspect. The other part is that the judge, who sits there day in and day out, with their docket of files of people that come before them, rarely do they know the kids personally. The idea is that the CASA volunteer is the eyes and ears for the judge, and is an unbiased person. You interview and talk to every person in the kid’s life: the teachers, the doctor, the foster parent — anybody and everybody, and you file a report. It sounds complicated, but it’s not really. You compile a report, and that is on the front of the file that the judge sees when [the kid] goes before the judge. It’s really an amazing thing. When I go to the court, these kids are brought in by a county van. There’s not even a mom or a parent with them. So you’re the person who is there with them.”
How did you get involved with CASA? “I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about CASA. I looked it up online and went in for an interview. What I learned is that they never have enough volunteers. That’s why I’m so happy to talk to people about it.”
How much time does being a CASA volunteer take? “It can be once a week, once a month, as much time as you’d
like to contribute. There is a lot of stuff done over the phone.”

What do you remember about your first experience working with a foster child? “The one boy I started with, when I went to visit him for the first time, he just looked at the ground and wouldn’t talk to me. I just started chipping away at his bravado. I signed him up for a basketball camp, because he had an interest in it. The group home said, ‘Well, we’re not driving him.’ So I ended up driving him to and from basketball camp for a week in the summer. Eventually, after being away from his own family for 10 years, he got reunited with them. The last time I saw him he was so happy, joking with me. It was so amazing. You feel like you helped solve the problem and got things right again. These kids need to have hope for a better future. If you can give hope to somebody, I think that’s pretty great.”

Earlier this year, you received the Robert Morrison Community Service Award from CASA Los Angeles. Congratulations! “Thank you. I didn’t feel worthy of it, but I embraced it. The thing that is so rewarding is knowing that you can make such a difference in these children’s lives.”

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