Brian and Betsy Buchert loved the idea of volunteering for Court-Appointed Special Advocates from the moment they learned about the program.
“It sounded like a really useful way to help,” said Betsy Buchert, an obstetrician at Woman’s Hospital, as Brian, a civil engineer, wrangled their sons. “We care so much about children; it really fits with us.”
They are one of the rare couple teams who have gone through CASA training, said Jennifer Mayer, recruitment coordinator for the Capital Area CASA Association, and work together on cases involving siblings.
Children who are referred to CASA have come into some kind of contact with the system, either child protective services or juvenile justice, Mayer said, and have been placed in foster care.
The Bucherts’ mission, as CASA volunteers, is to advocate for the child’s best interests, in whatever way that might mean, until the child is in a permanent, safe home.
The Bucherts see it as a big responsibility, they said, but not too far out of their wheelhouse. They have four sons of their own, two biological and two adopted from Ethiopia.
“We went to pick them (the twins) up when I was pregnant, so I went from having no children to having 3 boys very quickly,” she said.
When it comes to wild behavior from young children, the Bucherts have a pretty good idea of what falls into the normal range, they said, as three of the four swirled around them, playing a game of catch mixed with tag mixed with increasing volume.
“We pretty much live at this volume; we’re immune to it,” Betsy Buchert said, and her husband laughed, pausing to point their 5-year-old, Benjamin, away from the Christmas tree with the ball he’d just kicked underneath it.
And they’re familiar with the ways children of that age express themselves, she said.
“They can’t always just come right out and tell you what’s going on,” she said.
The CASA training process was pretty intense, she said, “but all kind of great.”
As part of adopting their twins, they had to go through foster parenting classes, she said, a lot of which involved cultural sensitivity and awareness of biases, she said.
But CASA training took that to the next level. “We’re there to be an unbiased social advocate for those children. A lot of going into yourself and recognizing your own biases,” she said. “Everybody’s perfect home is not the same thing.”
The CASA training sessions total 30 hours, Mayer said, and are meant to prepare volunteers for anything that might come up during the process of advocacy.
There is also continued support and supervision for all volunteers.
“We don’t just throw our volunteers out there alone,” Mayer said. “It’s a team effort, always.”
What the Bucherts are shooting for is being a bridge to the child’s needs. They keep up with what’s happening with everyone in the child’s life, including biological family members.
As with their own children, she said, they’re shooting for perfect, but they won’t be.
For anyone thinking of going through the training but hesitating at the thought of not being perfect at it, the Bucherts urge potential volunteers not to be frozen into inaction.
“We just try to keep in mind that doing it is better than not doing it. We’re doing it,” Betsy said.
The next CASA training begins Jan. 6.
To learn more, email email@example.com or call (225) 379-8598.