Advocate’s Corner by Kathy Thornberry

By: Kathy Thornberry
CASA Advocate since Feb 1999
8 closed cases – 14 children
1 open case – 4 children
2005 Volunteer of the Year

When asked whether I would “like” to write the Advocate’s Corner for this month, my biggest challenge was narrowing down what to write about after 13 ½ years as an advocate.  I remember when I told my physician that I was leaving my high-stress job and going back into the volunteer community as a CASA.  His words to me were, “You sure must enjoy beating your head against a brick wall”.  I was somewhat stunned….. but, yes, I guess I do enjoy beating my head against a brick wall, because that is what it feels like sometimes in trying to achieve a better life for the children we serve.  BUT, boy, is it well worth it!  Learning about what our CASA children have endured before coming into care and then helping them through the long arduous journey through the system and into permanency has been the most fulfilling thing I have done outside of my own family.   

After all of these years I am still appalled to see the amount of child abuse and neglect that occurs.  I live in Houston now where it seems that each day there is a story on the news about something horrible that has been done to a child in our area. I shudder to think how many more children are out there who don’t make the news, because their abuse hasn’t been discovered. How long will it take until help comes for them, or how extreme will it get before the authorities can get involved? 

When I think about what being a CASA advocate means to me, it brings tears and smiles.  In one particular case, the tears came over the starvation death of a two month old baby at the hands of his parents and the trauma and abuse inflicted on his two surviving sisters.  The smiles over helping those sisters jump the difficult hurdles thrown their way while they were in care.  The tears and anguish over being torn between being at my dying father’s bed one last time or at the termination trial for those little girls.  And finally, the smiles over seeing those little girls get the most perfect life that I could possibly wish for them and my father looking down smiling, because I was with those little girls who still had their lives ahead of them as his rich and full life ended. 

 I am going to end with some advice to all of you….  We are now being referred to as “SUPERHEROES” for what we do.  We are told how incredible we are for the often heroic accomplishments we achieve on behalf of our CASA children.  BE CAREFUL!   We work with very difficult situations and sometimes, extremely ugly ones.  Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed or emotionally stressed over what you are dealing with in your cases.  We so much want what is best for our CASA children, and the road can be very rough.  The expectations we place on ourselves can be extremely high.  Reach out to your supervisor and use the opportunities given to you to “share” your case problems and stressors.  We take our work very seriously and with the impact on children’s lives, it can be very daunting at times.  TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES!  There are a lot of children out there who desperately need YOU.

 Kathy’s proud Supervisor is Sandra Strub


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