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ONE VOLUNTEER’S STORY: ALLISON P.

Being a GAL is certainly challenging—and sometimes frustrating—but, knowing that I’ve played a role in ensuring that a child has a safe and loving future is extraordinarily rewarding.

I joined my first case 12 months ago and it was very much a work-in-progress.  The young girl (I’ll refer to her as “Lilly”) whom I support had been in the system for most of her life—in-and-out of different facilities, on-and-off various medications, four schools in five years.  I sensed that her case lacked momentum and a clear, consensus vision among her workers about what was the best path forward for this particular girl.  

My plan of attack had two paths.  I started by developing a relationship with Lilly.  It took time, of course, for her to trust me because so many workers have been and in and out of her life.  My visits with her paid off and I attained a strong understanding of her personality and learning/social challenges.  At the same time, I took a deep dive into the case file that was 6 inches thick, and I met with her social worker, doctor, therapist, school counselor, and attorney.

The CAC training that I received emphasizes that one of the most important roles that we play is the glue that connects all the workers on the case.  There was clearly a need for this with Lilly’s team and I assumed the role of strongly advocating for the solution that I thought was best for Lilly and pushing, prodding, and coaxing everyone to get on-board and to move quickly.  I think many of them may have thought that I was a pain-in-the- you-know-what, but I think I created a sense of urgency that helped bring Lilly’s case to closure.

Because I’m not “part of the system”, I was able to objectively consider what was truly in Lilly’s best interest.   I found a wonderful adoptive family and, after we met, I knew that they were meant to be her parents. Twelve hours before we were supposed to have a meeting to move forward and certify the family, I received a message that there was a problem .  I went into action and was able to leverage the relationships I had built with all of her workers to get things back on track.  (I think this is when they may have decided that I’m a pain-in-the-you-know-what, but assertive urgency is what’s needed to be an effective advocate for a child.)   The adoption is moving forward and, after 7 years in the foster care system, Lilly will have a stable and secure life.

CAC’s training and support network of supervisors and fellow advocates was invaluable.  I knew I had the resources and experience behind me to help me through the process, and that with CAC supporting me, I could find Lilly the loving home that she deserves.

 

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