Many things can define us, if we let them. The tie-breaking goal at a championship game may characterize you as a star athlete. Your father’s career choice designates you as a ‘pastor’s kid.’ Your winning chili recipe establishes you as a ‘master chef.’
Often times, it’s the more negative experiences that seem to define us – a bad choice, an illness, a divorce, a death. If the defining negative experience happened during your formative childhood years, like it does for CASA children, it is even more difficult to shake. Sometimes children can’t even see themselves beyond the defining circumstance or condition. It is so intertwined with how they perceive themselves, that they don’t see their value and strengths as a person.
The CASA case below shares the story of Luke and Katy, two children who could have been defined by a long list of challenges, but instead found value through their relationship with their CASA.
Luke and Katy were moved to a foster home because their parents faced mounting problems including mental health issues, substance abuse, and incarceration. Their foster mom worked hard to bond with them, providing the structure and stability they required. A team of child welfare professionals also worked to improve their overall well-being, coordinating support services to enhance their new living arrangement.
In addition to this team of professionals, the children were appointed a CASA volunteer, Simon. Simon brought positive words and a spirit of silliness into the children’s lives. They played during their weekly visits, smiling and giggling as if their challenges were forgotten for a brief time.
Many things defined Luke and Katy, including their severe emotional problems. Luke had cerebral palsy, was legally blind, and faced academic challenges at school. However, to Simon, he was an outgoing and energetic boy. Katy was said to be prone to tantrums, but to Simon she was a bright, sweet girl.
Simon cherished the children and their individual personalities. He took time to ask thoughtful questions, observing their strengths and offering words of affirmation. As circumstances with their birth mother deteriorated, the possibility of Luke and Katy returning home dwindled. Their future is still unknown, but thanks to their CASA and foster mom, their value is known.