For the past couple of years, I have been on a journey of personal rediscovery. Much of this journey focused on understanding who I am, where I currently stand with myself, and what drives me to be me. I had thought I lost myself, but alas I am starting to see the light at the end of my cave.
As an advocate, I have tackled issues that have impacted me to my core. From my identity to my health, my advocacy mission stemmed from a need to make the world I live in a better place. But stepping back I wondered, what can I do to make the world a better place for everyone to live in? What would that mission look like to me?
In this space, I have reaffirmed my commitment to advocacy, but in a much different way. I never would have thought that this question would lead me on a journey to becoming a foster care advocate. But here I am.
Last week, I had the honor of being sworn in by Voices for Children and St. Louis City Court to serve children and youth in St. Louis City’s foster care system as a Court appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteer after successfully completing 40+ hours of training.
“Voices for Children advocates for abused and neglected children and youth in St. Louis by representing their best interests in court and in the community. Their vision is a community where every child is nurtured, supported and has access to connections and resources necessary for them to know their value and reach their full potential.”
The organization serves children from birth to age 21 in St. Louis city and county foster care. More than 80% of the children assigned to the organization are African American and nearly all come from families struggling with poverty. The children they serve have experienced multiple traumas. As many as 40% have chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes, approximately 50% have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder and 60% have developmental delays or disabilities.
As a CASA volunteer, we give our children a powerful voice in decisions about where they will live and go to school, whether and how often they can spend time with siblings and other relatives, how long they will be in state custody and where they go when they leave foster care.
I’ll be getting my first assignment soon, and cannot wait! All of this change goes to show you the power of personal introspection, and making a leap out of that cave.