Alisha Parker and her husband, Stephen Broussard, are a rarity at the Capital Area Court Appointed Special Advocates Association.
Not many couples — fewer than 10% — are among the volunteers with the organization that represents the interests of abused and neglected children.
Parker, 57, and Broussard, 58, were inspired by their parents to volunteer their time.
Parker’s mom and dad, Beverly and Bob Jones, were volunteers of the year in 2017 for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Broussard’s father, Don, volunteered with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and his death in 2018 got them thinking.
“We’re in our 50s and we’ve devoted time to career, children, all of that, and I just felt like this would be a good time for us to do something,” Parker said. “My children are grown, and we’re still really busy, but I thought if we’re going to make a difference doing something, now’s the time.”
And, having recently helped resolve a case that involved four young children, they’re glad they pitched in.
“Once you get into this and once you realize that you have the opportunity to really affect one or several children and those kids really are the future of things — especially at-risk kids,” Parker said. “If you can have a positive impact even on just one, you’ve done something.”
As education gets more and more high-tech, several local schools have gone back to basics. And it doesn’t get more basic than dirt.
Parker, a CPA, is an adviser to Kappa Alpha Theta’s Delta Kappa Chapter at LSU, and CASA is the sorority’s philanthropy. Broussard and his brother own a KFC restaurant in Starkville, Mississippi, to which he travels every other week.
Despite their busy schedules, they signed up in 2019.
After training by CASA, the couple was assigned four children of a single mother whose drug addiction took over her life. The children, ages 2 through 8, seldom saw her, and they were living with their overwhelmed grandmother. Shortly after Parker and Broussard got involved, the oldest child was brought into a truancy hearing because he was not attending school.
Parker attended the hearing and explained the circumstances. The judge suggested they get the boy involved in extracurricular sports, which they did so he could have positive male role models. It’s one of many times they attended activities that helped them bond with the children and learn about their lives.
“These kids are just, through no fault of their own, are put into a very difficult situation,” Broussard said. “They’re good kids. They just need a little help. This stuff is going on. You read about it. You hear about it, but until you get involved … People just need some help, maybe a little guidance. Get them that and they’re great kids.”
A lot of their interactions with the youngsters took place at CASA-sponsored activities, but they also created their own opportunities.
CASA advises volunteers not to provide financial support, but Parker and Broussard got permission to help out with school uniforms when the grandmother was struggling. The impact surprised them.
“Most kids don’t think going to buy school uniforms is a fun thing,” Parker said. “These kids, they told me at one point, ‘This is the best day ever!’ My kids never said that.
“When you’re spending time and getting their trust doing things that you don’t have to do, kids know this. They know that you don’t have to do this. They know you’re not getting paid. They know this is a volunteer situation and you’re spending time with them because you want to. That makes a big difference. Children, especially in big families or poverty situations, they don’t feel important a lot of the time. You help them feel important, and they don’t get that.”
When 49 Afghan refugees arrive in Baton Rouge in the coming days, Catholic Charities hopes people will be ready to welcome them.
Their work with the children lasted two years until its resolution this summer.
CASA is seeking new volunteers, and Parker and Broussard encourage people to overcome their fear that, in working with abused and neglected children, they might make mistakes that cause harm rather than help.
“It’s been great for us,” Broussard said. “CASA has done a great job. They hold your hand. If you have any issues, they’re there to help you. You’re not left on your own. Anything you go through they have already been before.”
To find out more, visit casabr.org.