Hearts of Yolo: Michele Browne

Thursday, Dec 21, 2017

For twenty years, Michele Browne worked first as a veterinary nurse and then as an ER nurse. Now in her retirement she takes care of rescue dogs. In fact, she has taken care of around 250. A caretaker at heart, Michele is always looking for ways to help, but Yolo County CASA seemed to find her.

“I have an autistic son and have advocated for him for years. He is now 22 and my daughter is 19. I was talking to my sister one day about having some extra time and she told me that I should be a CASA volunteer. She explained to me what it was and reminded me that my career and personal life has been devoted to caretaking for the last twenty years. It really hit home that this was something I would be good at. I called the CASA office that week and they happened to have a spot in their training the next week. I applied and got in, and have been with my CASA child for almost six months.”

Michele’s CASA child is a five year old boy. Because of his age, she focuses on just having fun together during their visits. One time, she put several classic children’s books in the back of her van that her children read as kids and showed them to her CASA child. “You should have seen his face. He had never seen even the most classic children’s books. We literally sat in the back of my van and read for hours and he absolutely loved it. Now we read a few books at the end of each visit. He is so interested in books that I am taking him to the library for the first time during our next visit.”

Michele takes the advocacy component of being a CASA volunteer very seriously. “There are many parties involved in my case. I am in contact with the foster parents, the biological parents, social workers, and his teacher. He is loved by all of them and everyone wants the best for him. It’s too bad there is such turmoil, but we are working through it.”

As a caretaker, Michele wants to fix everything and put it in a neat package, however being a CASA volunteer has given her a different perspective. “You can’t fix everything but you can make the best of things as a CASA volunteer. It is a lesson in listening, patience, and of course, advocacy. You get really attached to achieving the best outcome for the child without overstepping boundaries or making decisions for people. It is a fine line that can be achieved through friendship and trust.”

Friendship, Michele says, is the crux of her relationship with her CASA child. “Because of his age, I’ve never tried to push him to talk on our visits. I just plan a fun activity and learn a thing or two about his perspective and desires each time we visit. The other week he told me he loved me. It took me by surprise because it’s only been a few months, but that shows you how important it is for children to have a trusted and consistent adult in their lives. I am really grateful that I pursued this work.”

To anyone considering becoming a CASA volunteer but nervous about it, Michele says to do it. “Jen is my advocate supervisor and I am lucky to have her. She makes the trainings really fun and ensures that everything goes smoothly. She is right there to help when needed and really supportive. The staff is amazing and will give you all the training and help you need. The only thing required is a big heart.”

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