In the CASA of Yellowstone County blog, we often talk about who would make a great volunteer Advocate, as well as the big and small wins those Advocates experience over the course of their advocacy. But what happens in between? Once a member of our community has taken the plunge and gone from a trainee to a full-fledged Advocate…what then?
CASA staff does everything we can to match volunteer Advocates with peer coordinators (seasoned Advocates who coach and mentor CASAs throughout their cases) who are compatible in schedules, temperament, skills, and style. The Advocate/peer coordinator match is something we take seriously, as your peer coordinator will be your go-to person for all things CASA over the course of the case.
After you swear in, your peer coordinator will set up a post-training interview with you. This will take place at the CASA office and may also include your program coordinator, as the three of you will be the dream team on behalf of the children you advocate for. The post-training interview is a chance to tie a bow on training, make a plan for any areas in which you feel like you could use a little more skill building, and make the shift from trainee to Advocate. If you’re ready, you can also select your first case at this time!
Yowza! How could you possibly select a case when you don’t know firsthand what advocacy is like? Well, here’s where your new best friend (aka your peer coordinator) will work with you to find the case that is right for you. There are a variety of factors that new Advocates consider when selecting a new case.
- Geography. Foster kids who have been removed from their homes in Yellowstone County are placed all over the county, state, and nation. Some advocates regularly travel already and are happy to add a child visit in Great Falls (or Livingston, or Missoula, etc.) to their regular loop. Some advocates would rather advocate for a child who is placed closer to Billings to allow for more frequent contact.
- Age. With different life stages, kids approach the world in different ways. Think about kids you have interacted with throughout your life, or even your own childhood. Is there an age that you would be most excited to walk through a child’s development with? Is that early childhood, with all the milestones (hopefully) coming fast and furious? Is that the preteen years, when kids’ identities are beginning to form and they are thinking more abstractly about the world around them? Or is that the teen years, when kids start making choices for themselves that may impact the trajectories of their lives?
- The X Factor. This includes all the other “whys” that may contribute to you choosing a certain case. Are the kids of an ethnic group or cultural background with which you can relate? Are you particularly impacted by the circumstances surrounding removal from the home? Have the kids been in care for a long time without an Advocate, and you feel you are the one to step in? Sometimes, Advocates say that a case simply pulls at their heartstrings, and they know the case is the one for them. At other times, Advocates try on the thought of different cases, ending up selecting a case they didn’t envision for themselves at first.
Once you select your first case, the next steps will be dictated by what is happening in the case at the moment. Perhaps a hearing or another event in the case is coming soon. Perhaps you will even be meeting the children for the first time in a matter of days. No matter what, your peer coordinator will be by your side every step of the way.
Advocacy is a new role for you, and we are committed to supporting you through all the ups and downs, from the day you select your case until the day it closes. So don’t worry—the right case is out there for you!
For more information on advocating for children in foster care, please contact development director Emily Gaudreau at (406) 259-1233 or firstname.lastname@example.org .