“He trusts me to tell him the truth without trying to be a parent.”
Dave Baldwin has been a CASA volunteer for nearly three years, having served multiple children during that time. Dave served as the CASA volunteer on a case involving a sibling group with a teenager named Alex*. Alex had to call 911 one morning when his parent was unresponsive due to substance use, leading to Alex and his sibling’s removal from the home.
Alex struggled in foster care for well over a year; he suffered physical abuse, frequently left placement without permission, bounced around to multiple group homes, and skipped school. In each situation, Alex struggled to abide by the rules of the home and would react to consequences with anger. But no matter where Alex was placed, Dave found a way to visit.
Upon discovering that Alex needed shoes when they first met, Dave immediately took him out to pick some out. He let Alex talk about what interested him and made a point to keep things casual and fun in order to let Alex have a chance to be a kid. Dave carved out more time to get to know Alex by volunteering to drive him to parental visits. He would take him to lunch, learn about Alex’s favorite games, and help in whatever way he could, including delivering Alex’s belongings from the case manager’s office to a new placement and getting Alex into driving school.
According to his CASA supervisor Susan Allen, “Dave listens to [Alex] non-judgmentally … and leads by example. It’s not hard for him to think about what would be important to a teenage boy.”
As Alex’s family worked toward reintegration, Dave acknowledged the parent’s successes and made recommendations for services that would help them succeed. Together, they encouraged Alex to work hard in school and to get a part-time job. Dave is supportive of the whole family, and hopes to remain in Alex’s life long term in an unofficial capacity as both a friend and source of support after the case closes.
Reflecting on all he has learned about trauma and kids living in homes with substance abuse during his time working with Alex and his sibling, Dave comes back to the simple fact that he enjoys being around young people, saying “it keeps me young. They’re creative, they’re great.”
*name changed for privacy
Photo: CASA Volunteer Dave Baldwin with his Volunteer Supervisor, Susan Allen