Giving back by being a CASA

Posted by | July 28, 2014 | Foster Care and Adoption | No Comments

When Ben Crouch retired, he decided he wanted to give back to his community. He found no shortage of options, but he narrowed the choices down by eliminating outlets that involved physical labor, like Habitat for Humanity. “I didn’t want to injure my hands—I’m a bluegrass guitar player!” he says with a chuckle. When he heard about the CASA program, he thought his background as a criminologist might lend itself to that role. He had taught related courses, had a PhD in sociology, and knew something about the function of courts in dealing with problems in society.

He went through the requisite 30 hours of training (and every year he completes a requisite 12 hours of training, as part of which he attends a victimization conference and other local offerings) and then waited to be matched. He initially thought he’d want to work with a young girl. Older children were a bit intimidating and he’d raised two girls, so he figured he knew a little something about them. However, when the agency called, they presented him with a case for a 15-year-old boy who’d been in the foster care system since he was 8 years old. The teen had been in three high schools in one calendar year and had been represented by several different social workers. It was a moment of decision for Ben. He was nervous about representing an older boy. But in the end, he reminded himself that he’d pursued this role because children need an advocate in court. So he agreed to take the case.

When he first began getting to know his charge (we’ll call him Jason), the teen lived in a residential facility because of behavior issues, and they corresponded regularly by snail mail. However, Ben successfully advocated for moving Jason from the residential facility to a foster home—and the responses to his letters stopped. So the teen is in a better place, but Ben doesn’t have nearly as much contact with him.

He does his best by him, though. He says he feels like an uncle toward Jason. He tries to see him once a month, taking him out to eat wherever he wants to go and trying to help the him think realistically. For example, when Jason talks about wanting to get an expensive car, Ben reminds him that pricey rides require good jobs. He talks to the young man’s foster father two or three times a month to check in and make suggestions for extra-curricular activities. And he regularly checks in with Jason’s teachers and counselors, to gather information that will go into the report he presents to the judge every six months, recommending what he feels is the best course of action.

Given his age, the teen will likely be in care until he ages out at 21. Older youth are notoriously hard to place for adoption. So Ben will work to keep him in a good foster home and encourage him to stay in school. He’s been the Jason’s CASA for two-and-half-years and estimates he’s invested 150 hours into the case so far. Despite the fact that permanency is unlikely for this youth, and therefore his case could last another six years, Ben is committed to staying the course with him. “I know the most about this child,” he says. “I hope he’s as prepared as possible to make a life, and a living.”

If you’re interested in being a CASA and making a change in a young person’s life, email us at info@DC127.org and we’ll make sure you get connected. Also, read our post about becoming a CASA.

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