Court Appointed Special Advocate: An adult volunteer, assigned by the court to study and protect the best interests of a youth in a civil or criminal abuse or neglect case. The CASA and the youth should talk on an ongoing basis. The CASA is your voice in the courtroom.
I met Eileen when I was 9 years old...or maybe I was 8. I'm not sure. I remember the first time I met her. She came to my foster parents house, about 45 minutes outside of town, through cotton fields and vast nothingness just to meet me. She could have waited to meet me at my next court date, but she didn't. She drove up the driveway in her white car. I used to love to race cars up the driveway so I took off after her little white car. When she got out of the car and knew my name I began to worry that maybe I was moving again and maybe this woman was going to be the one taking me away. "Nice to meet you, I'm Eileen. I'm your CASA, do you know what a CASA is?" I just stared at her and didn't respond. "Well a CASA is someone who goes to court and tells the judge what you want. I'm here to do whatever you want." I don't think I really knew what she was talking about but I remember that I liked her voice and her smile. I liked the way she smelled...I liked her perfume. It made her fancy... she was like a fancy grandma.
From that day on Eileen was a constant in my life--The ONLY constant in my life. She was the one that made sure I got to visit my siblings, that I had birthday celebrations, that photos were taken of all of us. She told me I was intelligent and beautiful and worthy of love and success. She believed in me, encouraged me, and helped me succeed in everything from playing the violin, to graduating the top of my class in high school, to going to college. I owe everything I am and have to her.
She was a constant supportive adult in my life, but I did see her less and less as all my siblings were adopted and moved away. I think she was no longer our Casa, but she was still supportive of me and visited me when she could. I'm not sure I would be here today if I had not had her. When I was 12, mute, anorexic and suicidal she told me she would be sad and miss me if I were gone. I know that sounds simple, but no one else told me that. She would call me on the phone when I was mute and say "I know you can't talk to me right now but I wanted to call and tell you I'm thinking about you." What would I be today if I didn't have Eileen back then? Would I still be mute? Would I be as mentally ill as my siblings? Would I be alive? I'm really not sure but the very first words I spoke after a year of silence were for Eileen.
Those were pretty much the last words she ever said to me. I tried to call a few days later to tell her that I was going to take a leave from school and come down to see her, but when I called her husband answered and I heard her screaming and crying in the background. This woman was the strongest woman I have ever met in my life. I never saw her cry except with joy. I heard her pain and I panicked. I wrote her a long email telling her what she meant to me and that she saved my life, but I don't think she was able read it. Her husband said he read it to her but I don't know if she was able to hear it. I never drove down to see her. I was too scared of what I would see. I abandoned her. I left her before she could leave me. I regret that I didn't drive back to Arizona to hug her one last time. I never told her what she meant to me--what she still means to me. She saved my life. I never told her that. I never told her that I love her. I miss her so very much.
I love you Eileen. Thank you for everything.