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"My Why" - Roger Lurie Shares His CASA Journey
Let me start by telling you a bit about myself. I am a 65-year-old man with a wife, two grown children, and two young grandchildren. I am passionate about spending time with my family, traveling, and recreational sports including running, hiking, and swimming.
My father passed away suddenly from an illness when I was ten years old. He left behind my mother, four boys with ages ranging from five to twelve, and a business in crisis that left the family with financial challenges. My Mom re-married a couple of years later and my stepfather had a strong influence on me in my childhood. He brought with him such a strong sense of patience and love – after all, he was a single man suddenly immersed in a house of adolescent boys. This had a profound and lasting impact on my life.
After more than 30 years of professional experience and impending plans to step back into semi-retirement, I sought a meaningful volunteer opportunity supporting youth. With no legal background or experience working with foster children, I was compelled to check out the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). As a CASA, I found I would have the opportunity to get to know, befriend, and advocate on behalf of children that have suffered abuse or neglect in a home situation. As I spoke to friends who were familiar with the role of a CASA, and after a conversation with my mother in which I learned that my stepfather had served as a CASA, this opportunity got my attention and interest.
A CASA volunteer is an everyday member of the community who is appointed and sworn in by the Court to represent the best interest of abused and neglected children during a dependency case. Volunteers come from all walks of life and represent various ages, education levels, and professions. The volunteers are the eyes and ears of the judge, the wisdom of the community, and the voice of the child. A CASA advocate is often the only consistent adult presence a child has while in foster care and through this they develop and maintain a trusting relationship with the child.
The CASA volunteer researches facts and interviews people involved in the case (foster parents, service providers, case workers, etc.), monitor the child’s placement, observes the child’s behavior in various contexts, assesses needs, and reports successes. They identify service needs and make recommendations regarding permanency for the child. With all this information, they provide written reports of their findings to assist the court in making informed decisions about the child’s future.
Serving as a CASA has been tremendously rewarding to me personally and professionally. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have good health, a stable family background, and an income source that has enabled me to provide for myself and my family. I have now served as a CASA for six years and am currently on my sixth case. Several have resulted in satisfactory reunification with biological parents. I have experienced children that have had significant trauma during their youth but have such strong potential and bright minds. I have seen children that have a strong bond and love for their parents, regardless of the uncertainty and difficult situations that they have been exposed to. If we don’t support and advocate for these youth, I fear what will happen to them when they reach adulthood.
I have so much hope for these kiddos. They deserve a quality experience in their youth and the opportunity to excel in school, participate in extracurricular activities and know with confidence that they have someone looking out for them that cares. A dedicated CASA can break through barriers and be supportive of these youth in ways that the busy professionals on the cases are unable to do so.
Children who have experienced abuse or neglect fare much better with a CASA volunteer by their side. Studies have shown they are more likely to find a safe, permanent home, more likely to succeed in school, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system.
In closing, I want to share a couple of stories that have been impactful to me during my time as a CASA. A young man I had advocated for was suddenly removed from a foster home after an altercation. He landed in a temporary shelter, and I went to visit him the same day. When he saw me, he ran to the door and hugged me, and said, “I was so scared that I would never see you again.” Another incident is the high school student I advocate for who joined me for parent-teacher conferences recently. This kiddo remarked to me, “no one has ever cared enough to attend parent-teacher conferences with me.” These are the stories that convince me that as a CASA, I can make a substantial difference in a child’s life and keep me engaged as a CASA for many years to come.
Thousands of Arizona children in foster care are needing a CASA Volunteer.
There is a CASA program in each of Arizona’s 15 counties. Learn more and find your local program at www.AZCASAVolunteer.org.
Another way to get involved with similar requirements is the Foster Care Review Board in which volunteers are appointed by the Court to boards that review cases of children in foster care. You can request an application by going to the FCRB website at: www.AZFCRB.org.