Yolo CASA volunteers still making a difference in children’s lives

CASA volunteers work to continue to empower and support children throughout this unstable time.
Photo by Julia M Cameron/Pexels

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Small businesses and nonprofit organizations are all having to make adjustments to their daily operations during this trying time, and the CASA Association is no exception. Now more than ever the children within this association need and rely on their advocates. 

Tracy Fauver, Executive Director of Yolo County CASA, explained that she was very impressed with how quickly the CASA staff and volunteers were able to adjust to the erratic guidelines and regulations. While Fauver was very impressed with the flexibility of those involved with the association, there were obstacles that were harder to overcome. 

Switching to virtual meetings and working remotely presented the challenge of finding the coveted separation between work and home. Working within the CASA Association can be stressful and now the staff was being asked to bring that stressful work into their homes. 

“We all had to adjust and figure out how to take care of ourselves, while still being able to do our jobs to the best of our abilities,” said Fauver. 

Jen Boschee-Danze, Program Manager of Yolo County CASA, expanded on another challenge that the Yolo County CASA Association faced in regard to training new volunteers. CASA staff needed to think of a new way to interact with and train their new volunteers, while still providing the same quality of training that those before them received in person. 

“A lot of us questioned if we were ready,” said Boschee-Danze. 

The main concern the CASA association had was for the children and their families. On top of the direct concerns the pandemic has presented it has also added additional stress to these families because the support they were receiving from their schools, childcare, behavior specialists and other advocates were suddenly non-existent or altered drastically. 

Boschee-Danze knew that they would need to do something to create a virtual environment where a positive relationship could still be developed. Fortunately, the staff and volunteers rose to the occasion and shared and presented ideas that they may not have thought of otherwise. 

While technology has its dangers, the volunteers all explained that they are so thankful for the contact that they were able to maintain through its use. Kathie Kishaba, Kris Borowsky and Emily Neimeyer are just three of the Yolo County CASA volunteers that worked tirelessly to ensure that their assigned CASA felt empowered and supported throughout this unstable time. 

Each and every CASA child comes from a different background, with different needs and circumstances. These three CASA volunteers use technology to cater to their CASA’s unique interests and developmental needs. One of these volunteers used technology to nurture the child’s love of reading through story time and book discussions. 

Another CASA explained that having long conversations over the phone was very difficult due to the child’s attention span and special needs. Desperate for a way to connect with the child she came up with the idea to create a book titled, “She Shelters in Place” with photos taken on outings with her own family. 

For the third CASA, empowerment was the main focus for her child. She would let her CASA child control the duration of the call and the content of the call. It was very important that her virtual time with the child was not another stressor on the child or the family. She explained that most of the time the child would ask her questions and she would simply look up the answers for him on Google. 

“CASA attracts high quality and caring people who are consistently inspiring me. These are the kinds of stories that keep us going,” said Fauver. 

Boschee-Danze and Fauver both stressed that the need for volunteers and community support has not changed, in fact it may even be greater. Boschee-Danze also went onto emphasis that while they are so thankful for all their volunteers, the demand for males is extremely high. The Yolo County CASA association would love to have more male volunteers that they can pair with boys that desperately need male role models in their lives. 

Children within the system are more at risk than ever before due to their sparse access to various support systems. Laura Legacki, Outreach Coordinator, urges those who have ever considered becoming a volunteer to apply for their scheduled Fall training by Sept. 21. 

It is very evident that while the way CASA volunteers are interacting with the children may look different they are still making a huge difference in the lives of these children. 

“As a volunteer this work is no less rewarding now than it was before,” reminded Kishaba.

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