Hearts of Yolo: Samantha Smith

Thursday, Sep 7, 2017

With a Master’s Degree in public health and a background in nonprofit program evaluation, a yearning to have more direct involvement in the service work of nonprofit organizations led Samantha Smith to Yolo County CASA. “I wanted to be hands-on and helping people every day. When I heard about an opening on staff as an advocate supervisor at Yolo County CASA, I immediately applied. Each day is different, and whether it’s meeting with CASA volunteers in the Yolo County CASA office or attending hearings in court, I am always busy directly serving our mission.”

Samantha started as an employee at Yolo County CASA this past February. In April, she became a CASA volunteer in addition to being an employee. “As an advocate supervisor, it is my job to become familiar with all of our waitlisted cases. One day a high priority case involving a teenage girl came across my desk and I felt called. I knew I could help the situation a great deal.”

Six months later, Samantha is proud of the progress she’s made. “During one visit, we were joking around and painting together. All of a sudden, my CASA youth said, ‘I don’t want to be anywhere right now but with you.’ I questioned why she said that to make sure nothing negative was going on at home or at school that posed a red flag and she verified that she just thinks our time together is really special. I’m honored that I mean so much to her.”

On the staff side as an advocate supervisor, Samantha hears several stories. “Sometimes the stories are hard, and sometimes they are positive, but regardless, I am always moved by what CASA volunteers do for foster children. We recently had a situation that could have turned out a lot differently if our volunteers had not been there spotting red flags.”

Going to court is an almost daily occurrence for Samantha in both her role as an advocate supervisor and a CASA volunteer, and it is different in ways she didn’t expect. “Judge Basha, and now Judge McAdam are extremely compassionate. They take the civil rights of the child very seriously and deeply care about each one of the children that walk into the courtroom. I didn’t expect the judges to be that emotionally involved.”

While there are many things Samantha loves about her job and her role as a CASA volunteer, her favorite is simple, “I like seeing the kids smile. That’s why we come to work every day. Seeing a kid smile after being through tough times that most children can’t imagine is pretty powerful.” She adds, “It is also beautiful to see people come together and put their differences aside for the best interest of a child in the dependency system. In a world full of conflict, it’s wonderful to see.”

 

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