Hearts of Yolo: Maureen Carson

Wednesday, Aug 7, 2019

After a distinguished, thirty-year career in municipal city planning, Maureen Carson began searching for volunteer work in retirement. She wanted to do something different from her career and honed in on children’s causes. “My late father was severely neglected as a child, and I wanted to make an impact in an area where I wish more were available to children like him decades ago… kind of a full-circle thing.”

As Maureen was searching, she remembered seeing information about Yolo County CASA in the newspaper. She also saw a profile on her friend and current CASA volunteer, Mike Rockwell. “I kept running into Mike during my husband, Dan’s City Council campaign and I would ask him questions about being a CASA. It was at just the right time and he cemented my belief that being a CASA volunteer was where I wanted to devote my time. As soon as my husband Dan’s campaign ended, I applied and was accepted to the next CASA training.”

Maureen ended up choosing a CASA case that was recommended to her as high need by her advocate supervisor. “This little girl had been placed out of our county and was in her seventh placement over only a year-and-a-half’s time. She is only five years old. I decided right then and there that I wanted to help her.”

Their first meeting was all about building trust. Maureen visited at the CASA youth’s foster home. Maureen and her CASA youth colored as Maureen got to know both her CASA youth and the foster mom. “After that, we always went on outings,” Maureen states. “There’s a park we go to often, that we’ve started calling ’our park.’ I ask her each time I visit if we should branch out, but she usually decides she wants to play at ’our park’ again. I’ve realized she finds comfort in that stability and routine.”

Speaking of stability, Maureen recently learned that her CASA youth would be moved again. “I’ve started discussing the move with her to prepare her. During one of these conversations, she asked me if she would see me again. I told her that no matter where she is, I will be there for her. That was truly a defining moment of how needed a CASA’s role truly is, and I was grateful to offer her that stability. Imagine at five years old, going through everything she has gone though, and how scary that must feel.”

In addition to providing stability during this next big transition, Maureen is also helping to navigate school choices. “It’s tough with a move at this time of year because we need to make sure she is enrolled in appropriate schooling. I’ve been able to build a relationship with her current teacher, who I see when I drop my CASA youth at school after our visits. As my CASA youth transitions to a new school, I’ll build a relationship with the new teacher and continue to play an active role to advocate for what she needs to thrive in her new school setting.”

Despite navigating big changes, Maureen finds plenty of time to give her CASA youth light-hearted experiences. “We recently went to the state fair and it was an incredible day. The part that stands out the most to me was when we went to the petting zoo area. In addition to hand-feeding the goats and llamas, she brushed the animals’ hair for at least an hour. She was so tender in the way she interacted with the animals. For her age and what she’s been through, I thought, ‘wow, this is a remarkable kid who is caring and compassionate and is going to do well in life.’”

To others considering becoming a CASA volunteer, Maureen says, “If you have a big heart, do it. There are a lot of kids out there who need you. My career had nothing to do with child development, teaching or social services, but I wanted to make a difference. The training was thorough and completely prepared me, and when I need guidance, the CASA staff, especially my advocate supervisor, are incredibly helpful. There is literally a whole staff of people ready to help you make a positive impact on a child’s life who really needs it.”

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