In honor of YWCA Clark County celebrating 35 years of our CASA Program we’ve interviewed three of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers on what it’s like being a CASA. Our final interview with Gail Shelton is below. (Follow the links to read our interviews with Avonna Chung and Larry Didier as well!)
How long have you been a CASA?
What first inspired you or got you interested in the CASA program?
During my last few years of teaching reading in the Evergreen School District I was thinking about volunteering in some capacity in the schools, possibly as a “Big Sister” or “Lunch Buddy”. I was drawn to an ad in the paper that kept reappearing every so often, describing the CASA Program. I thought, “I could do that!” I had had several students who were in temporary foster homes over the years, and my own two sons were adopted, so I was somewhat familiar with children who didn’t have permanent, stable homes.
How many cases do you usually work per year?
I limit myself to one case at a time, because I have kept active as a substitute teacher since retiring, and have several other hobbies to keep me busy! As a case winds down, usually after about 12 months, I pick up my next case.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a CASA?
The most rewarding part of being a CASA is seeing happy endings for the children, be it reunification with the parent, or adoption by a stable grandparent or foster/adoptive parents. My current case is working on permanent guardianship by a grandparent, which will be the second time that that has been the positive outcome.
What is the most difficult aspect of being a CASA?
The most frustrating or difficult part of the job is how slow the legal process is for these young children to get that “happily ever after” ending to their story. Every child I have mentored is the sweetest, spunkiest, most resilient little being who so deserves a stable, nurturing, safe environment in which to thrive! That’s what keeps me going on to my next case.
What advice would you give new volunteers or those considering becoming a CASA?
Get all the training that the YWCA and the CASA Program offers. I have learned so much about
counseling and parenting services, the cycle of abuse and poverty, mental health issues, school services, etc… It’s also important that you learn to keep a professional distance in each case so that you can remain an objective observer and advocate. Lastly, always put the children’s needs first–that’s your primary role!
What do you do when you’re not volunteering as a CASA?
During the school year, I am a retired/rehired half-day reading specialist for grades K-3 with the Evergreen School District. Being from a large, singing extended-family, my most enduring hobby has been singing in the Sweet Adelines International organization for the past 45 years! I currently sing in two choruses, and am forming a new quartet. I enjoy swimming and water aerobics at Lake Shore. I also dabble in painting–watercolor and acrylics. And of course, I am always reading, reading, reading!
Thank you to Gail for taking time to speak with us, and for her dedication to the CASA Program!
Click here to learn more about the CASA Program of YWCA Clark County.