Friday, May 13, 2011

Auction Napa Valley - Beneficiary Stories

Since it's inception in 1981, Auction Napa Valley has given nearly $100 million to scores of non-profit programs throughout the Napa Valley. That's a pretty big number to digest - what exactly does $100 million mean to our community?

To help answer that question, we've collected stories from the organizations that receive funding through Auction Napa Valley grants. In the weeks leading up to this year's auction, June 2-5, we want to share these stories with you.

Our first story comes from Napa CASA - a voice for children. Napa CASA provides court appointed advocates for abused and neglected children who, through no fault of their own, have become dependents of the court. This story from Mary, a CASA volunteer, demonstrates how essential these services are to the children in our community.

A story from Mary, a CASA volunteer

I had heard about CASA and after I saw an ad in the paper, I called to learn more about the program. I did not realize that there was such a need until I was told of the number of children waiting for a CASA volunteer. I took the training after I retired from teaching school for 25 years. I had seen some of these children in my classroom so I had some understanding of their needs.

Being a CASA volunteer is a lot like being a detective. You have to talk to everyone involved. To help a child you have to really know what is going on and gather all the information you can. First I read the child’s complete case file. Then I meet with the foster parents and find out how the child was doing in the foster home. Then I meet with the child. The child thinks they are at fault. They worry about what is going to happen to them. They can’t understand why their mom can’t take care of them. They ask “Why does my daddy treat me like he does”?

Next, I meet with the parents. I tell the parents, “I’m here to help your child; I hope we can cooperate with each other." I tell them, “The goal is for you to parent your child. I want to see you be successful but my job is to focus on your child’s needs. I’m going to do what I think is right and I’m going to write a report to the court with my recommendations."

In my case the mother was not able to safely parent her child. She had alcohol and mental health issues. There also were allegations that the young boy was being abused by his father. They didn’t have enough information about that and were getting ready to send him back to his father. I talked to the boy’s foster mother and she said “you know they’re letting him visit on the weekends with his daddy. And after every visit, when he comes back to our house, he can’t sleep.” So I spoke to his counselor and told him that I was concerned about the visits. The young boy was asked, “When you go home to be with your daddy, why can’t you sleep when you go back to your foster home?” And he told us what had been happening. A lot happened after that, but today that child is doing well. He’s happy and he’s safe, and now he is going to be adopted.

As a CASA volunteer you show the child there is someone that cares about what happens to them - that there are good people in this world, that maybe they are not getting what they need at home but that somebody knows they are special. They grow up knowing that they are good people. By showing them something different, by making sure they are cared for, we can put these children on the right track.

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