When Dallas resident Rick Rosenberg finished his CASA training, he was ready for whatever his first case might bring. He wasn’t expecting a sibling group of five, but he says now he wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
What brought you to Dallas CASA?
I was newly retired after 24 years as executive director at Temple Emanu-El. I had some friends who were involved at CASA. I thought I might be able to help put my time to good use.
Tell us about your first case.
When my supervisor Ashley Peres called with a case involving five children, I was a little surprised at first but then ready to jump in. The kids were in three different placements, which kept me on my toes. I was excited to get started and meet the kids.
Has being an advocate been what you expected?
The training prepared me quite well for what lay ahead and gave me a good place to start. From there, I learned on the job. One thing I underestimated the importance of was calling therapists, educators and doctors. Making those calls and sharing that information was critical to the case.
I wasn’t fully prepared personally how much of the role is forming a meaningful connection with the children. The training prepared me well, but it’s difficult to explain how critical that connection can be for the child and the advocate. Once, I went to an ARD meeting for one of the children at his school. He spotted me waiting for the meeting to begin and came over to say hello with a friendly “Hi, Rick!” He was glad I was there representing him, and I was glad to be there, too.
What challenges have you encountered?
The whole foster program was new to me, so some of the things I have encountered have challenged me. One of the boys I was serving got into a fight with another boy at his placement. His foster mother tried her best to calm the situation, but emotions and anger were so out of control she had to call the police to come out and help. That was hard for me, knowing the police had to come out for this child. It made me extra grateful for all the Child Protective Services workers and CASA supervisors who see this regularly. Foster care can be really hard.
Any advice you have for people considering becoming a volunteer advocate?
It’s so much more rewarding than you might think. I thought the greatest benefit would be to the children, but I get so much out of it. It’s been a great experience.
What do you say to those who are afraid the role is too hard?
Jump in! These kids are just looking for someone to talk to. Anyone of us can lend an ear.
Tell us about the role your faith plays in your advocacy.
My faith gives me strength and the desire to share my time with others. It is our responsibility to repair the world. I interpret this to mean that I should participate in my community. But I think the main thing it gives me is hope that no one is lost. People are helping each other, and that gives me hope for today and tomorrow.
Submitted by Rosanne Lewis