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.