by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon
Rebecca Tingle from the Annapolis Rotary Club is Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a nonprofit that advocates for and supports abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court proceedings. The organization is made up in a large part by qualified and trained community volunteers who are called CASAs. CASAs are considered “Officers of the Court” and ensure that needed services are delivered to families and children in a timely and effective manner. Volunteer child advocates keep children from “falling through the cracks” and work to ensure that each child has a safe, stable, permanent home.
CASA volunteers make a long-term commitment to conduct an independent, comprehensive study of a child’s situation; maintain contact with parents, foster parents, attorneys, teachers, therapists and social workers; monitor the child’s situation by visiting regularly; write formal court reports with recommendations and provide direct testimony to the Court; and advocate for the child’s developmental, educational, and psychological needs.
When asked what she found was most inspiring in her work, Rebecca told stories about volunteers who have created deep connections with the child to whom they are assigned. One volunteer assigned to a teenager who was completing high school and wanted to go to the Prom bought him a suit and chauffeured him and his date to the event. They both continue to have a close relationship and to visit each other. “The volunteers develop a relationship with these children, and almost take on a [parental] role, teaching them life skills the children have not yet learned […]. Everything about this organization inspires me. It’s amazing what our volunteers do for these children. The CASA role is such a unique volunteer role; it’s a role that carries with it a high level of responsibility and credibility. Every experience, to me, is amazing.” Rebecca has dedicated the last eight years to CASA. As she puts it, “There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not talking about CASA, it’s my life.”
Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).