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CASA Stories

CASA Volunteer Rewrites the Script

A child is neglected and placed in foster care due in part to the mother’s own past abuse and poor parenting skills.

Agencies serving the family are leaning toward a permanency plan of severance and adoption for her son.

Elaine Flaherty has been a volunteer advocate since September 2001, working on nine cases involving 17 individual children.
In addition to getting to know each child well, she has developed close relationships with parents, caseworkers, therapists and teachers. When it seemed the mother mentioned above was about to lose her child forever, Elaine rolled up her sleeves and figured out what it would take to turn things around.

“After getting to know the mother and the child, I was able to see that there was  true love and connection. The mother had been abused and out of her own home since she was 8 years old. She hadn’t had anyone to be a role model for her. My frustration came from agencies that had already made up their mind to terminate parental rights.” The mother spent countless hours learning basic parenting skills—including how to use a Laundromat. With Elaine’s support and encouragement, the mother has obtained a job and secured housing and medical care for her child’s chronic illness.

“It’s amazing how often people say ‘I could never do what you do.’ What I try to explain is that CASA advocates are there to think about what’s going to be best for a child who’s had a hard time. The learning of what to do becomes manageable if you care what happens to the child.”

In addition to being a CASA volunteer and the board president of the program’s fundraising arm, Elaine was a member of a state committee to review and make suggestions for changes to Child Protective Services.

“The CASA program is so important to the welfare of these children. It provides safety, security and oversight to their cases—but most of all, it provides stability and a person who is with that child and for that child every step of the way. It is both an honor and a privilege to be a part of the CASA program.”

Updated from National CASA Annual Report 2005