Meet CASA Volunteer Rachel Yeatts, PhD
Rachel has been a dedicated CASA volunteer for over 5 years! We asked her to share about her experience as an Advocate.
Why did you first become a CASA?
I became a CASA because I was looking for a volunteer activity that would help me transition from working full time to an active life not based around a full-time career. The volunteer work needed to be meaningful and substantial. When I saw the “Emily’s Dragon” video, that plucked my heart strings in a way that made me think CASA might be for me.
What has kept you working with us over the years?
Over the past five years, what has kept me working with CASA has been the chance to help shepherd children’s lives toward healthy, sustainable resources and choices, the support of my CASA supervisor, the integrity of the supervising staff, and the overall commitment by each person I’ve met at CASA to serving the children above all. It takes strong, flexible, creative, motivated, dedicated, loving people to do the hard work of witnessing, supporting, going to bat for, and caring for these children and those who make up their world in the best possible way.
What surprised you about your work for CASA?
Coming out of a professional career, I was surprised by the experience of this work. It’s immediate, real, roll-up-your sleeves work and play. It’s down-to-earth yet requires both respect and compassion to hold space for dignity to remain in the room. Any task can be mundane. Any task can be heroic.
Can you think of a time or two when you really felt you made a difference?
There were a group of siblings in one case I had who came into care because of neglect and drug use in the home. They were split between two homes. The six-year-old boy, Ronny, who was the second brother, struggled a lot in the beginning. He cried and became angry when I said his name. “Don’t say my name,” he cried, and I could see how upended his world must have felt with strangers knowing his name. “I don’t like you,” he cried. I stayed with that case thirty-two months. Just after the case closed and the siblings were reunited with a relative, I was invited to the birthday party of the youngest sibling. When I arrived, out ran Ronny, smile beaming. Miss R, Miss R!” he cried. “You’re driving the same car! In school I won the spelling award! I can count to twenty in Spanish! Do you want to see my drawing?” The words tumbled over themselves as he happily told me everything he could think of, gesturing and smiling so big. Ronny was the one I was most nervous to see because I worried he was still angry after nearly three years of ups and downs, of making birdhouses and playing ball; of reading books and eating lunch at school. But when I drove up to the birthday party that day, Ronny was not angry. He was happy to see me, and more importantly, happy for me to see him.
In another case, a teen girl was taken into care because of neglect and horrific abuse. A bright, creative, and troubled person, this child also ran away from placements and spent time at a residential treatment center. I was able to find the child a ukulele and a grant to pay for music lessons once she was reunited with her family. This was an important creative outlet for her for expression and interaction with others. She carried it everywhere she went, learned to play it well and even to write songs.
Denton County has so many causes that are important. Why should people donate to CASA?
There are so many good causes in Denton County. CASA stands out because its money goes to empower adults who serve the children who otherwise have no advocate to look out for them and to speak for their best interests in courts that decide what will happen to them. It is such a powerful intervention in the lives of children who can easily wind up in the justice system without a caring adult to stand up for them, to be there to see them, to hear their stories, and to help them find what they need to be healthy and to have a better chance of success, stability, and happiness.