Purple Hair

Purple Hair

by Greer Malone, member, St. Paul's, Healdsburg

For years, before I retired, I searched for a meaningful volunteer opportunity to fill my anticipated free time. After rejecting a few ideas, I was fortunate to notice a brief ad in the local paper for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA is a nationwide program developed through the Juvenile Division of the Superior Court. The court oversees children who have been taken from their homes because of abuse or neglect. CASA trains volunteers to become advocates for the children as they face the complicated and often frightening child welfare system. The volunteer, called a “CASA,” spends personal time with one child and works with the youngster’s social worker, teacher and foster parents to ensure that the child does not get lost in the court system. This is service that cannot be provided by well-meaning but overburdened professionals.

After completing the CASA training in January 2014, I met my youth, “JR,” a 14-year-old boy. (As these youths are wards of the court, I am bound by confidentiality restrictions including not using his real name.) JR and I meet at least once a week for activities you’d expect to be enjoyed by any teenager. We play games and go for walks and outings in the community. On St. Patrick’s Day we made green cupcakes. I attend JR’s school functions and celebrate holidays with him. He has taught me to skateboard and I now can throw a mean football. Most important, we talk – about school, friends, food, movies and (shudder) Justin Bieber. JR and I are now comfortable with each other, and each time he exhibits proof of trust, my heart sings. He has support from many sources, and I have seen his confidence and sociability soar.

I try to bring joy and frivolity into my meetings with JR. I recently told him that if he attained a certain goal that I thought was quite a stretch, I would dye my hair purple. Take a close look at my hair the next time you see me (or in the picture above). To my delight, he reached his goal. To his delight, I kept my word.

The CASA organization could not be a better support and resource for their volunteers. As a very knowledgeable and professional group of people, they provide ongoing training for volunteers and coordinate with programs relating to the welfare of children. Staff is available, literally, 24-hours a day and are always willing to listen and provide encouragement and guidance.

CASA serves over 200 of the 550 children in foster care in Sonoma County. Currently there are 55 children on the waiting list to be assigned a CASA. If you have any interest in the program or know of someone who might be, it would be my pleasure to talk to you about this life-changing opportunity.

(Reprinted, with permission, from the April 2015 issue of the SpiritSword newsletter of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Healdsburg.)

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