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Monica Gray: Information Gatherer, Reporter, Provider

Monica Gray, CASA of Westchester County, NY

Monica was awarded the 2010 Spirit Award in the Social Justice category by the Volunteer Center of United Way, Westchester County, NY. Below is an excerpt from her acceptance speech.

Monica Gray CASA volunteerI came upon the CASA program by accident, through an internet search. CASA appealed to me because it involved a combination of working on behalf of children, yet at the same time with a range of individuals impacting children's lives personally, legally and therapeutically.

As I had hoped, I became exposed to and comfortable with the intricacies of CPS and DSS, SPRS, RTFs, RTCs, TPRS and TFHs, SPOEs and lots of other initialed entities. Many more still confuse me, but now I just ask people to tell me what they're talking about, always adding that I'm just a volunteer, not a full-time staff member. That freedom of being a volunteer is the absolutely marvelous permission to bring a child pizza. It's the freedom to call harried parents and foster parents on weeknights or Sundays, when they have time to talk to you.    

The responsibilities of being a CASA volunteer are twofold, both equally important. There is the child, and there is the case. Advocating for the child means talking to family, doctors, law guardians, foster moms, teachers, therapists. It has involved hospital visits, making CDs, playing Uno, reassurances, bringing treats, being there. That's the child.

Administering the case means 10 loose-leaf binders stuffed over five years with court reports, medical reports, psychiatric evaluations, DSS meeting notes, notes of all conversations and visits, hundreds (thousands?) of emails asking for updates or providing updates. You get to be an information gatherer, reporter, and provider—a link to the branches that affect the child's story.  

The most satisfying aspect of my own CASA work is the appreciation and affection I have gained for a particular little girl’s resilience and sweetness. I have also been awed by the dedication and sheer goodness of some of the foster moms, therapists, legal guardians and caseworkers as I have seen what goes into their work with children.

The hardest part is you don't always like the way things go. You can't control that. And it can make you both sad and furious.

Occasionally people have said to me, “I don’t know if I can make that big a commitment.” You can. You are not on your own at all. It’s challenging, rewarding, frustrating, inspirational work. I am grateful to have had the chance to do it.

 

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