Why I’m a CASA
By Denise Peralez
My name is Denise Peralez and I’m a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). I’d like to tell you about Mayra, my former advocate youth, who is also my God-Daughter and a part of my family.
When I first heard the words CASA and what the trained volunteers do, I knew, that I wanted to be a part of this amazing group of individuals, who are there for foster children. I first met Mayra when she was in in her early teens and in foster care. Today she is in her early 20’s and is, in my mind, an amazing young lady. I made a difference in her life just as she impacted my life as well.
Children need someone to believe in them, to be there for them, to be their voice when they are too afraid to speak up for themselves. As a CASA you teach the children not to be afraid to use their own voice, you encourage them to make their voices heard and that what they say matters. You guide them and mentor them. You let them know they matter and that there are people who really do care what is happening to them.
Young people are resilient. Many have been through traumatic situations, but they overcome and go on to be amazing young individuals. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in their future - there are. As CASAs, we choose to spend time with a foster child. We aren’t assigned to a child’s case, we choose the child. We volunteer, unlike most of the professionals assigned to each case. It is not my job as a volunteer CASA to judge the youth I have chosen to be court appointed to. The best thing I can do is listen, don’t interrupt them, and let them talk for as long as they are willing to. You will be amazed at what they tell you, they begin to express their feelings and emotions. They confide in you and you gain their trust; it’s special.
The satisfaction is way more than I could ever have imagined it would be. It just so rewarding and that is why I continue to be a CASA. That is why till this day, Mayra will text me or call me, whenever she just needs to talk. She may need to get advice or just want to tell me how her day went, good or bad. I will always be there for her, for as long as I can. I am inspired to see how far Mayra has come with all that she has been through.
Mayra and the other youth I advocate for, inspire me to do what I do. With the right people guiding these kids, they can do anything. We are the voice for the children who may not otherwise have someone to speak up for them.