Leslie O'Rourke, CASA Volunteer since April 2017
Moving to a big city from the Midwest took some getting used to but one of the first things Leslie knew was, "I want to make a difference here." Leslie explored many volunteering opportunities; some were day events, others were more long term, like becoming a mentor. However, the opportunity she pursued, that has turned out to be both the most challenging and yet the most rewarding has been right here with CASA of Philadelphia. Leslie started her training with CASA in the spring of 2017 and was excited to jump right in. She had completed all of her pre-service work, was sworn in as a CASA volunteer in June 2017 and assigned a case in August. Like most CASA volunteers she was a bit nervous at first, “yikes, I have to use all that training” but also excited, “wow, I get to help a family” she recalls. Reaching out to the CUA worker was one of her first steps and she was able to build a good relationship with the worker. They partnered, agreed to goals and worked towards having the best outcome for eight year old Joey*
Prior to the CUA worker and Leslie being assigned as the CASA volunteer for the case it had been in the courts since November of 2016 with no resolution. The thing that made this different, Leslie believes, was the CUA worker and the CASA volunteer working together to explain to the parent what the court expected in order for her to get her child back. As the volunteer, Leslie’s outlook was that the mother had made a mistake but deserved another chance to parent her child. After speaking with the child, his teachers, and his foster mom it was apparent to Leslie that Joey wanted to go home as much as his mother wanted him there. The CUA worker and CASA volunteer worked in partnership to get as much information and resources as they could for both mother and son. Leslie believes that once Joey’s mother was able to trust that the CUA worker and CASA volunteer wanted to support her with doing what was needed to get Joey reunified, she began taking responsibility for her own treatment goals, and turned things around for herself. After the court date just in November the child was able to spend the night at home with his mother for the first time since the case was opened. Leslie visited them, and was able to see that Joey was elated, showing off toys and his little nephew. He had been withdrawn and quiet when she had visited him at his foster home. Leslie says that seeing him there, with his mother, confirmed what she and the CUA worked believed, that he was where he belonged; back with his mother. His mother was putting in the work to meet all of the goals the CUA and the court set out for her, She was now on track to be reunified with her son. He was reunified before Christmas and the case was closed at the next hearing in January. The last court date Leslie says she can remember so clearly, because mom was extremely happy, hugged her and said THANK YOU. Leslie says “This is why I love CASA and why I volunteer. Although there are times that were challenging, seeing the smiles from mom and child during and at the end made it all worthwhile.” By day Leslie does marketing for a bank, and is getting through a busy period, but plans to take on another case assignment in the spring.
*Joey is not his real name