Changing a Child’s Life…and My Own

Thank you to Changing a Child’s Life…and My OwnElaine Leist, volunteer with CASA Kane County, Geneva, IL, for writing this guest post.

People like to say that things happen for a reason. Sometimes I think they are consoling themselves, putting a positive spin on an unexpected, or even tragic, turn of events.

For most of my life, I had no need for such explanations. I was blessed to have spent my life in the small town where I was born, surrounded by a loving family and cherished friends. There were few occurrences in my life that I could not explain or embrace.

Then about four years ago my husband was offered a new job that he could not refuse, one that required our relocating to Chicago, over 300 miles from everything that was familiar—including my grandchildren and a 20-year teaching career.

Once settled near the Windy City, I began looking for venues that would allow me to be with people and again be of some use to someone. When I heard about the CASA program, I suspected it would fill a void in my life. Little did I know what life lessons I would learn.

My CASA training gave me an in-depth look into the social service system, the foster care system and the judicial system. To be honest, I had no real interest in learning about this before. It seemed like a world removed from mine, and one that I could not effect. CASA showed me otherwise. I learned that as an advocate, I could make a difference in the lives of children caught in a place of confusion and fear—where time can literally stand still for them.

I completed CASA volunteer training and was given my first case immediately. This began my 2-½ year relationship with Billy, a very special little boy with many special needs. Billy had been removed from his young parents’ unsafe home at 14 months of age, and it appeared he would not be going back. My experience in early childhood education helped me recognize what supports Billy needed and gave me confidence in advocating for them.

After three years, Billy found his forever home with his paternal grandparents. While he still struggles with behavior issues in school and will continue to require therapies to address his special needs, he is thriving in their care.

Shortly after I said good-bye to Billy, I received a call from my volunteer supervisor, asking me if I would be willing to take on another child—his half-brother! Again, I worked with caseworkers, judges and others to find a home for another dear child.

I became a CASA volunteer to fill the void that I recognized in my own life. But I did not realize that something else, something unrecognized yet very important, had been missing: an understanding of a world that exists in our midst but we might never see.

Maybe things do happen for a reason.

Read more CASA volunteer stories at

This entry was posted in Child Abuse Prevention, Child Advocacy, Foster Care, General, Volunteer, Youth. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Changing a Child’s Life…and My Own

  1. Hi my name is Sarah Tillison, and I am also doing a project in college on Child Abuse. Please watch my video. It tells the story of a young girl named Maya, who passed away in 2008. She was my cousin. Please like my video, and share it as well. Thank you

  2. electronic medical billing says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any manner you can take away me from that service? Thanks!

    • You should be able to modify or unsubscribe from your own WordPress notifications from a link in any of those emails. I am unable to affect your email subscriptions.

  3. Nancy says:

    Yes, adopting from foetsr care is much easier. There is no guarantee, though, so hearts on both sides can be broken. A friend of mine was set to adopt her foetsr daughter when very suddenly she was given back to her biological parents and taken out of state. If you are willing to be a foetsr parent with the goal of providing good care for children in crisis, that would be a better approach to start and then if you end up getting to adopt a child, yay!

  4. Mckailie Carnahan says:

    Elaine Leist, I can not thank you enough for what you are doing. I am currently writing a research paper for College English and my topic is Child Abuse and Neglect. The thesis of my paper is: “Some people say and believe that kids have a better chance if they just stay with their biological parents instead of being tossed into foster care, even if their psychological and physical needs aren’t being met, but at some point you have to draw the line with unfit parenting and how many chance you can hand out just for a child to have the “ideal life.” It is people like you Elaine, who make my thesis possible. I have seen many kids just through my own work place(daycare center) not have the opportunity to have a host parent. Just in 2011, there was a nationally estimated 1,570 children died from abuse and neglect, because they didn’t get the opportunity to find a more suitable home. Many children who were abused and neglected and don’t get the help they need usually take on the same actions. They say 30% of children who go through abuse or neglect repeat the same actions with their own children. What you chose to do Elaine is more than just giving a child a home, but actually saving them from future destruction. Thank you for all you do!

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