CASA of the Coastal Bend talks to three experienced male volunteers about their experiences with the program and the children they’ve served.
By: Samantha Koepp-Stemplinger
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word, “father,” as “a male parent; a man who is thought of as being like a father; a person who was in someone’s family in past times.” While the role of a father or a father figure can be fulfilled by various people in one’s life, what remains the same in all families is how a positive male relationship can significantly influence a child’s life.
When a parent or guardian is unable to provide for a child’s basic needs and the child is removed from the home, a judge will appoint a court-appointed special advocate, or a CASA, to advocate for the child’s best interests. These volunteers are often the only positive adult relationships these children have had, which is crucial during the standard 12 to 18 months (sometimes longer) a child stays in CPS custody. Many of these children have never had a positive or stable male influence.
Three male volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Coastal Bend have offered to share their experiences with the program and the children they have served:
• K.C. Kimbrough, who was sworn in as a CASA on Sept. 30, 2013, and has worked three cases, serving a total of four children
• Ron Pinaire, who was sworn in as a CASA on Oct. 10, 2014, and has worked two cases, serving a total of two children
• Thom Walker, who was sworn in as a CASA on June 24, 2004, and has worked 17 cases, serving a total of 44 children
Q: Why did you feel compelled to become a CASA?
Kimbrough: After researching many of the various opportunities, I felt CASA would be the best fit for me. I feel that if I can help a child through difficult times in their lives, that maybe they will have better opportunities.
Pinaire: I directed the Boy Scout program in one of the local troops, and after I ended up with some medical problems and couldn’t go on any of the high adventure and backpacking, I was looking for something else to do, and a billboard for CASA caught my eye.
Walker: I had volunteered to inspect CASA’s old building on Tancahua, so that’s how I knew Page (CASA executive director). I started recruiting other people for CASA, so I got Page to come out and talk to the Kiwanis group on the Island, and during her presentation, she said, “I’ve been trying to get this guy to volunteer for three years, but he’s too busy.” So after that, I agreed to do the pre-training interview. I think what actually finally made me swear in and do it is that was an exceptional training class.
Q: What has been most rewarding thus far with being a CASA?
Pinaire: Helping my autistic child so that he can go outside and go to dinner with me and not be afraid of everything that is going on around him. We got him in a place where he is not threatened all the time, and that is really rewarding for me. It is just amazing to me he’s gone from feeling very threatened by small things and becoming violent about it to now putting together 3-D puzzles and helping another child in the foster home with their homework.
Q: Why do you feel it is important for men to be CASAs?
Kimbrough: It is important to allow a child to see men that can be trusted and that have found a purpose. Each of us [has] been blessed by reaching adulthood – some with scars and a bit of baggage, but each with something to give back.
Q: What advice do you have for those interested in becoming a CASA?
Walker: So you pick up something after every case, and if you do it long enough, it kind of dawns on you that now you have valuable skills. I try to tell every new CASA to forget about your feelings. Yes, you’re going to sometimes be happy and sometimes you’re going to be devastated, but this is not about you. It’s about what happens to that child if you don’t do it. That’s what you have to keep asking yourself, and if you’ll just do that, then everything else just takes care of itself.
To read the entire interview, visit www.casaofthecoastalbend.org.
CASA of the Coastal Bend trains volunteers to advocate for the best interest of children who have been abused or neglected and are in the foster care system. The next training begins on July 13. For more information about CASA or to sign up for training, contact Samantha Koepp-Stemplinger at email@example.com or call 361-884-2272.
Photos courtesy of CASA