EASTON — CASA of the Mid-Shore, which is made up of volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, hosted its annual Celebration of Children holiday luncheon Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Tidewater Inn in Easton.
CASA of the Mid-Shore Executive Director, Robin Davenport, said the holidays are a time for people to get together with family and count their blessings, but children taken away from their homes because of abuse, neglect or abandonment experience the holidays differently.
Davenport said most children removed from homes where they have experienced maltreatment are put into foster or group homes outside their home communities. Often, those children experience feelings of being deprived, and feelings of sadness and worry. Davenport said the holiday season can increase those feelings.
She said court appointed special advocates work for “society’s forgotten children”; for their safety and well-being, but also to give them hope, which she said makes a difference and can change everything for those children.
“Their very childhoods have been disrupted by maltreatment,” Davenport said.
Davenport said victories with the children they serve are measured in “very small increments.” She said, what seems like a little or insignificant action to most people — listening to concerns; meeting for a meal; and offering trust, safety and respect — is a big deal for the children CASA serves, because those actions let them know they matter and are not forgotten.
One of the most important responsibilities a CASA volunteer has, is to give a voice to a child’s fears, wishes, best interest and hopes, she said.
“By fullfilling their responsibilities to the children and to the court, CASA volunteers help to identify pathways of hope for these children,” Davenport said.
Davenport said the judges and magistrates CASA works with value the work of the organization. She said when Stephen Kehoe, judge of the Talbot County Circuit Court, addressed CASA’s new volunteers during their swearing-in ceremony in at the Talbot County Circuit Court, he said, “CASA volunteers are the spark of hope for children.”
Professional speaker, Jennifer Field, also spoke during the luncheon and offered attendees insight into five lessons she has learned, which have enabled her to live a better life.
Field was a champion equestrian rider when she was young and her sights were set on the Olympics, before she was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1992, at the age of 17. The accident left her in a coma for two months and she fought for the next 10 years to overcome the damage to her brain, by re-learning to eat, walk, read and talk. She said her trauma helped her to gain a new perspective on life and said being given hope can change everything.
She said her experience taught her five lessons, the first of which was to never give up and to “develop a deeply-rooted belief in yourself.” The second lesson she learned was to find a path in life, despite its roadblocks, and to allow new paths to emerge when faced with setbacks. The third lesson was to celebrate progress without trying to attain perfection, because “an ideal ending does not mean perfection.”
Field said trying to attain perfection diminishes the value of progress, no matter how small, and living a life of small, positive progress is a victory worth celebrating. She said a child’s smile, alone, is a victory at CASA.
“I understand that CASA volunteers are encouraged to pay attention to the small victories of their children’s cases. Any action, no matter how small, that CASA takes to help a child move closer to safety, better health and a loving family, is progress,” Field said.
Field said lives are precious and through tragedy can come transformation, which is the fourth lesson her experience taught her. She called life, “the gift that keeps on giving.”
Her fifth lesson was to be aware of blessings in disguise. She said it is easy to take everyday actions for granted; eating, talking, sleeping and walking. However, she encouraged attendees to be thankful for these gifts and to make the most of blessings in disguise.
She said giving children the opportunity for a better tomorrow, and making communities aware of the needs of children who are maltreated, gives communities the opportunity to come together with one goal — to raise healthier, happier youth.
“Intervention can stop the cycle of child abuse,” Field said. “Children, who have had no one speaking for them, now have CASA volunteers giving a voice for their needs.”
For more information or to donate to CASA of the Mid-Shore, call 410-822-2866 or visit www.casamidshore.org.
Follow me on Twitter @kwillis_stardem.