Joan Sleeth was always impressed with the positive things she heard about Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) from foster parents and teacher colleagues. After her retirement from teaching, she knew she still wanted to be involved with kids, so in November 2020, she became a CASA herself, feeling that the role would be a good fit.
Joan retired from her career as an elementary teacher after 31 years with Billings Public Schools. Joan has her master’s degree in Special Education; she taught 10 years in special education classrooms, then the last 21 years teaching 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. Part of her career included also working as a resource room aide for 2 years.
Joan’s first case as a CASA involves a toddler. Joan noticed that the little girl started out shy, but will now gesture and play with Joan as she becomes more comfortable with her. She and Joan now enjoy a number of activities together, such as Play-Doh, coloring, building with blocks, looking at books, and playing house. Joan noticed early on that her little girl was not talking as much as she should be for her age, so she expressed her concern to the foster mom and suggested Early Childhood Intervention as a resource. The little girl subsequently qualified for speech and language services, which she just started in April.
Recently, Joan’s heart was warmed when her little girl came up to her, held out her arms to be picked up, and sat on Joan’s lap to draw. Joan is gratified to know that she is developing a relationship with her CASA child and with the foster parents who send Joan photos and short videos to keep her updated. Joan loves seeing this child just being a kid and having fun. Joan feels rewarded knowing that she is a voice for this little girl, and that she has been a positive listener and source of encouragement for the foster parents and social worker.
Joan has been married to Tim for 42 years. They have one son Nathan, a daughter-in-law Misty, and three grandchildren. Joan’s hobbies include writing poetry and reading, crafting and doing art projects with the grandkids, sewing baby bibs, four wheeling, and snowmobiling.
Joan would tell a new CASA that it is important to be encouraging to their child, and to be a good listener. Often, it is the little things that help build trust and relationships. Joan also advises: Do not be afraid to ask questions — there are great Peer Coordinators and program staff to help you!
Emily Gaudreau is the Development Director for CASA of Yellowstone County.