Andy McCall’s first case as a court-appointed special advocate brought him closer to the challenging realities that often face children in foster care.
Though McCall, 35, works a full-time job in commercial real estate and lives in a comfortable residence in the Old Goodwood area, he wanted to make an impact on area young people who are living in difficult circumstances, he said.
Surrounded by family and friends who were already involved with the Capital Area CASA Association, McCall attended a fundraiser and fulfilled his interest by joining the program in May 2014, the month he became a CASA volunteer and advocate for a 17-year-old foster boy.
“I chose to get involved because what CASA is doing is special,” McCall said. “I didn’t know how much the service was needed until I went to the training. There are some horrible situations that some of these kids are exposed to, and if there is something that I can do, then I am going to do my little part.”
In 2014, CASA served about 250 children in the foster care system, said Jennifer Mayer, CASA recruitment coordinator. Volunteers serve from one to two children and average about 15 hours per month, she said. According to the state’s Department of Children and Family Services website, 4,721 children were served in foster care in June. Mayer said CASA provides services to children in Baton Rouge.
But what makes McCall particularly unique to CASA is his gender, Mayer said. Roughly half of the foster care children CASA volunteers serve are boys, yet there are fewer than 26 men who volunteer with CASA out of 145 volunteers who serve the Baton Rouge area, Mayer said.
McCall grew up in a middle-class, Mid City home where he was raised in a stable, two-parent household, attended church regularly and never thought that his life was much different from that of other city children.
His perspective changed after he began advocating for a boy whose life was just the opposite of his own boyhood. The boy was dealing with a lot of difficult circumstances, including moving from group home to group home and not receiving enough parental support. “I was sad for him at first,” McCall said.
The boy also was exposed to negative influences in his family home environment and had at one point run away from a group home, McCall said.
McCall stepped up and became a stable presence in the boy’s life. “I changed from feeling sad for him to motivating him, giving him a shoulder and being there so that he could have sometime to talk to,” McCall said.
Within a year’s time, McCall advocated for the boy at various juvenile court dates and maintained his commitment to stay involved with the boy.
“CASA provided that one place where he could go, no matter who he was with or where he was. We were always there giving him direction,” McCall said.
The payoff was twofold, McCall said. Though the young man has turned 18 and has now aged out of the foster care system, “I’m still his life coach,” McCall said.
As the young man’s life coach, Mayer explained, McCall is helping prepare the young man to take care of himself and to live independently.
“I’ve become very proud of him. He’s stepped up and grown up. He could have given up and said, ‘I’ll go live on the streets,’ but instead, he earned his GED, his driver’s license and he is joining the military and going to basic training,” McCall said.
For information on joining CASA, visit www.casabr.org or call (225) 379-8598.