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News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Honorable Glenda A. Hatchett

The Honorable Glenda A. Hatchett is a nationally recognized authority on juvenile issues known for her award-winning television series Judge Hatchett and her book Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say! She will provide a keynote address at the next National CASA Annual Conference, which takes place in Atlanta April 16-19, 2010. Learn more about Judge Hatchett at glendahatchett.com.

Closing Words

Follow the Dreampost to Parent Power

Judge Glenda A. Hatchett
National CASA Spokesperson

When my kids were young, I used to put notes in their book bags or tape them to the bathroom mirror. Now that they are older, they get emails and cell phone messages. But before they were old enough to understand, I was saying to them consistently, “I know that you’re destined for greatness.”

For years, I’ve given parents and other influencers of children a piece of homework. And this is something that CASA volunteers can put in motion with support from foster parents. I encourage you to sit down and ask each child, “What is your dream for your life? If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” Then I ask adults to take a piece of paper and put the name of the dream in bold letters and tack it to the ceiling or over the child’s bed. (For older children, it’s best to let them do the posting.) Astronaut, teacher, musician—whatever it may be. This sign becomes the first thing the child sees in the morning and the last thing she sees at night. And for the child who does not know what he wants to be, simply post “I want to be great.” The specific dream will come to him eventually.

My new Dreampost Campaign encourages one million parents and other concerned adults to join a movement to promote the dreams of our children. Register at parentpowernow.com, and you can download a free handprint on which to write children’s dreams. Post the dream for every child in your circle, and then invite other parents and influencers of children to join this movement. The website includes several resources to help you begin this conversation.

I’m so happy to have National CASA on board as a dream partner. CASA volunteers are key to supporting this dreaming process in children, whether for the far-off future or the here and now. For example, you might say to a child, “I just know you can make the squad (or the chess team or whatever short-term goal the child might have). And here’s how I can help you get there.” This kind of positive coaching is something all children need and is too often absent in the lives of youth in foster care.

Why are these conversations so important? We know that children who are focused on their dreams are less likely to get sidetracked by distractions like skipping class or using drugs. By asking this critical question—“What is your dream for your life?”—we are sending such an important message to children: that we are listening, that we care and that we believe in them.

As a CASA volunteer, you might find yourself having a conversation with a 15-year-old who against all odds says to you, “I want to be an obstetrician.” Maybe because of where she’s living, the dream doesn’t get posted on the ceiling. But it can be posted on the inside of a closet door or inside her locker—somewhere she sees it every day. And decades from now when she is delivering babies, she will remember the CASA volunteer who believed in her enough to help her dream.

Achieving a dream is not easy work. Neither is being a CASA or GAL volunteer. As someone who has often seen the difference that advocates make in children’s lives, I deeply appreciate what you do to make life better for our children. I encourage you to take care of yourself as well by nurturing your own spirit. As a parent told me, “I’m posting my child’s dream over her bed, and I’m also posting my dream over my own bed. Just because I am not a kid does not mean that I cannot have a dream.”

We won’t be given another chance to get it right for this generation of children. This is work that lives long beyond us, that will manifest itself on generations yet to be born. Thank you for everything you do to keep the dreams alive.

The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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