Hearts of Yolo: Leilani Duvauchelle

Thursday, Nov 10, 2016

Leilani Duvauchelle is a passionate volunteer. On the side of her full-time job in the student accounting department at UC Davis, she volunteers for Empower Yolo, a local shelter for women and children in danger and crises. She also teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

When Leilani was looking for another way to directly help people, she happened to have a friend in Sacramento who is a CASA volunteer, which spurred her to look into Yolo County CASA. She went through the training and was sworn in as a CASA in Yolo County about six months ago. When she was choosing her CASA child, she learned that her CASA child loves cats. “During our first visit, I showed her a picture of a cat on my phone to break the ice. She hadn’t been around a cat since she was placed in foster care so she was really excited. Since I am a cat lover too, I surprised her a few months later by setting up an educational tour for us at Yolo County Animal Shelter. It was a really neat experience and my favorite outing so far because I was able to show her that I listen to her and care about her interests.”

In fact, that kind of attentiveness is what Leilani feels is the cornerstone to being a CASA volunteer. “In the beginning it was intimidating because there was so much I wanted to do to help her and show her I cared. The amount I could help was truly limitless. However I quickly realized that the weekly visits mean so much… it shows the child there is a loving, present adult who cares deeply about her and follows through.”

The weekly visits also allow Leilani to be a powerful voice in court for her child. “I’ve been to court several times on behalf of my foster child. The judges really care about what I have to say and I use it as an opportunity to personalize my foster child. After we go through the facts, I am always asked if I have anything else to say and I make sure add a bit about my foster child’s personality, likes, and dislikes so that people feel like they know her better as they make decisions regarding her case.”

As for the time commitment involved in being a CASA volunteer, Leilani didn’t think she could do it at first with a full-time job and other volunteer endeavors. “I am so glad I ignored my fears. I am always able to fit the visits into my schedule and it’s one of the things I look forward to most in my week.”

To those considering becoming a CASA, she hopes they will also ignore any of their fears and give it a try. “Foster kids get moved around often and have many people working on their case. I’ve personally witnessed just how important it is to have one person to bring it all together, and it’s really rewarding to be that person.”

Additionally, Leilani points out that a CASA volunteer has the freedom to be “something different” to a foster child. “A foster child has many formal relationships in their lives in the form of foster parents, social workers, etc. As a CASA you can make it what you feel is needed. You might realize your child needs a good friend, a mentor, a sounding board, or in my case, a little of all three.”

Thank you, Leilani, for committing to be the constant in the life of a foster child. We are so very grateful! 

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