My professional skills as a qualitative analyst at Chirp Research transfer to another important role in my life – as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) volunteer in the Dallas area. CASAs are sworn officers of the court who advocate on behalf of abused and neglected children. In other words, my job is to be a voice in the court system for a child who has been removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect. CASAs are appointed by the judge to a case*, which usually requires at least a one-year commitment. The children involved in these cases are of all ages from all types of backgrounds, and CASA volunteers step in to be a consistent source of support in a time of great instability.
In my day job, I connect, listen, and weave together a web of information to make sense of whatever question I’m trying to explore. I find myself talking to people from very diverse backgrounds and all walks of life to find the commonalities. My CASA work is no different. I sort through information, conduct research, speak to individuals involved in the child’s life, and make sure I’m seeking truth to make well-informed recommendations to the court on behalf of the child I’m representing.
I first learned about CASA from a good friend who worked for the organization and was constantly sharing her passion for the cause. When I moved to Dallas, I knew I wanted to get involved in the community. Coming from a home where I felt a lot of support and stability, I recognize how important it is for every child to have this sense of safety. Currently, I am lucky to volunteer alongside my mom, which makes my volunteer experience extra special. There’s the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but through CASA, I’ve realized that it also takes a village to protect a child. This is not an isolated narrative that exists in a vacuum. When children in our communities are affected by abuse, neglect, and more, there are repercussions that affect us all. These are the kids that go to school with our kids. These are our neighbors. And these are our future leaders.
I’ve learned a lot through my work with CASA: that everyone has a story; that patience is an ongoing classroom; and that you can never have too much good, clear communication. My role at Chirp has enhanced my effectiveness as a CASA advocate and vice versa. And working for Chirp has allowed me to have a consistent presence with my case.
Our company culture of giving back is not a box we check as part of corporate responsibility; it’s a foundational principle of who we are. As an organization, we donate money through Chirp For A Cause; as a team, we volunteer at various events together; and as individuals, we are encouraged to make a difference. If I need to be offline for a few hours to take phone calls, go to court, or be there for a child in need, it’s not just allowed, but fully supported by my Chirp teammates.
It’s not always easy, but I take one day at time, moving toward the objectives at hand, and celebrating the small victories along the way. The impact of showing a child that someone cares about them can’t be overestimated. In my own life, it’s something that I took for granted.
I believe we have a responsibility to help break the cycle of abuse and neglect that threatens our communities. If you want to make a tangible difference in your community, but aren’t sure where to get started, I encourage you to check out CASA. Currently, there aren’t enough volunteers, so not every child in the system has an advocate. We can’t all foster the kids who need help, but we can speak up for them. Just say “yes” and see where it takes you. I promise, it’s a commitment you will never regret making.
Blair Guilfoile, Chirp Research Qualitative Analyst
*In order to protect identities, all children and families are simply referred to as “case(s).”
Nearly 700,000 children experience abuse or neglect each year. Instead of playing with neighbors and making happy family memories, they’re attending court hearings, adjusting to new foster homes, and transitioning to new schools. That’s a heavy burden for a child to carry. With a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteer dedicated to their case, America’s most vulnerable children have someone by their side, speaking up for their best interests.
Learn more at casaforchildren.org