Tuesday, Jan 21, 2020
Taking care of children has always been important to CASA volunteer, Debbie Duncan. Having spent 10 years with her husband and children volunteering at the International School in Saudi Arabia, Debbie knew she wanted to continue her mission of helping children after she returned home. Since joining the CASA volunteer family 3 years ago, Debbie has volunteered on 7 different cases, providing a voice to 12 children. We got a chance to ask Debbie a few questions about herself and her experiences as a CASA volunteer. Here is what she had to say.
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I have been married for 35 years and am a mother to two grown sons and a grandmother to a beautiful granddaughter. My husband was employed with a petrochemical company in Saudi Arabia. We decided as a family to move there together, immersing ourselves in the culture for ten years. My sons and I moved back to Oklahoma in 2003. My husband was able to retire and return home permanently in 2018.
What is it like to be a CASA volunteer?
Being a volunteer speaks to the heart; from the first time you read the file to the monthly visits with the child(ren) involved. You want to do everything you can to make sure the child's best interests are being met. You speak to caseworkers, therapists, teachers, parents, grandparents, and anyone else that can provide information about the child's life. The child is never far from your mind. You come to know the child on your case and everyone involved with them very well. Relationships are made, sometimes for a lifetime. Being a volunteer is a very rewarding experience.
What surprised you the most about being a volunteer?
What has surprised me the most is how much I have grown to care about the children on my cases. At first, they are just a name in a folder but then you talk to them and see them every month and a bond is formed. They know you and come to rely on you and expect that you will be there for them. These children aren't mine, but I will fight for all of them to have a better future.
Have you had any cases that really stuck out to you?
Yes. I had a pre-teen on one of my cases that had been placed in-patient in the hospital for mental health treatment. During her stay, she was allowed daily 5-minute phone calls. She would use her time every day to call and talk with me. Some days she just read me a poem she had written. Sometimes we had more conversation. She continued to call me daily after she was released from the hospital and placed in a shelter. Even after she was eventually placed in a loving foster home, it took her four more months to get to the point where she did not feel like she needed to call me every day. She has now found her forever home and I still get phone calls on occasion - whenever something good is happening in her life.
How have the children you have worked with impacted your life?
Since becoming a CASA volunteer I find myself helping others more; asking if someone needs help or giving time at back to school events. I am more involved in things that will help in the community in a way that helps our children. I no longer sit back and think someone else will do it. I step up and ask what needs to be done.
What is the most gratifying experience you've had as a volunteer?
Watching the children be adopted into their forever homes or reunified with their parents. Those days are the happiest, best days ever.
What would you tell someone considering becoming a CASA volunteer?
Being a CASA volunteer can be difficult, but it is very much worth everything you put into it. These children need you to speak for them in court. You are their voice. They need to be heard. It takes commitment. As a CASA volunteer, you will be the one consistent person in their lives. Children want you to be there for them. They are often scared and want someone who will stick with them throughout the case. Someone they can learn to trust. You can be that person.