Nancy has been committed to the children and families in Sangamon County for 15 years. During that time, Nancy has advocated for 15 children, 5 of whom are currently in foster care, 7 have returned home, 2 are placed in guardianship, and 1 aged out of the system after 11 years in a residential center. The ages of these children have ranged from just a few months old to 21 and each one has left an indelible mark on Nancy’s heart.
Children removed from their home and placed into foster care, almost always feel overwhelmed and unsettled. It can be extremely scary for kids. Even if their home life had been chaotic, it was what they knew. Frequently, these kids are witnesses, as well as a victims, to trauma and they can present as angry, confused, and anxious. They are placed into a foster home with new rules, different food, often must attend a different school and there are lots of unknowns. They are managed by a system that is complicated and confusing. Too frequently, their foster placement changes for a myriad of reasons, as do caseworkers. Nancy reports that one little boy was moved so often, he called all the foster mother’s “Grandma” because he was too confused to learn their names. But he always calls her “Miss Nancy” because she has been his one consistent adult he has known for the more than 3 years he has been in foster care.
Those who know Nancy use words to describe her like persistent, professional, and thorough. Her CASA kids know her to be consistent with her visits and communications and that she is a constant presence whose main concern is advocating for their best interests. They know she writes reports to the Judge who is overseeing their case and attends the court hearings where the decisions are made about their future. They know she talks to their teachers and attends their IEP (Individual Education Plan), ACR (Administrative Case Reviews), CFTM (Child & Family Team Meetings), CIPP (Clinical Intervention for Placement Preservation) and like meetings to learn about their education, family issues, and case oversight. Nancy has been known to attend Doctor’s visits and school meetings as well. “I try to treat my assigned kids with the same respect and concern that I would want shown to the kids in my family. Basically, I follow the golden rule. All kids want the same things we did as kids… to feel safe, loved, supported, and heard. In my role as their CASA, I strive to make sure my kids know I am concerned about their safety, that I care and support them, and that I will listen to them. My court reports are geared toward recommendations that will lead to permanency in a home where they receive these foundational, stabilizing factors in abundance. When that happens, I’m sure what I do matters; that I’m making a difference by impacting their futures in very positive ways.”
Being that one adult who is consistent and shows concern and who will answer their questions, assure them they are important and that their voice will be heard is what a CASA can be for a child. That is what Nancy does with all her CASA kids. She takes time to listen, offers her recommendations to the courts and strives all the while to develop a trust bond so her assigned foster kids know she is going to make their voice heard and always advocate for their best interests.