Wanda Gottschalk has served as a Board Member at CASA for Douglas County since November 2015. Wanda chairs the Board Fundraising Committee and is President elect.
How did you first get involved with CASA?
After retiring as Chief Development Officer at Child Saving Institute, I knew two things: Retirement wasn’t for me and I wanted to continue to work in child welfare. CASA seemed a logical place to start. I invited my friend Candace Daly, a CASA Board member, to meet me for coffee. We talked for two hours and a week later she asked me to consider serving on the board before becoming a CASA.
What was your first impression of CASA?
My first impression was “Wow, what a dedicated staff, what a well-run organization. What a difference the staff and the CASA’s they supervise are making in the lives of kids in the foster care system.” Every day is an emotional roller coaster with very high highs and very low lows. It takes fortitude, commitment and passion to work with and for foster kids.
What do you find most challenging about the child welfare system?
Working in the child welfare system is challenging because human nature doesn’t change. Cycles of abuse and neglect don’t change. Addiction issues and mental illness continue to seriously impact children and their families. It seems like every day there is a new crisis that impacts our community’s children and teens. Maintaining a well-educated, committed staff is challenging because of emotional “burn-out” and too often low pay.
What do you wish other people knew about CASA?
I wish the people in our community knew that CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. I wish there was a way to follow a CASA through a case without jeopardizing the confidentiality of the children/family involved. I wish the public understood the commitment, passion and empathy a CASA brings to each case assignment and that ironically the CASA is usually the only unpaid person in the courtroom. And finally that being a CASA requires rigorous training, commitment and responsibility. A CASA is a child’s voice.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering or donating?
If you are thinking about donating or volunteering at CASA, DO IT!! Every penny counts toward training another CASA who will look deeper and “see” more when working with a team to make the best decisions possible for a child’s future. As a trained volunteer, you can be that person who makes a difference in a child’s ability to trust again, to smile again, to love again. As an adoptive parent, I am so excited when a particularly difficult case results in an appropriate adoption. Being part of an organization that helps find loving forever homes for children is a gift that warms my heart and restores my hope that the foster care system will continue to improve.
The interest in CASA seems to be growing, why?
Our community continues to look for solutions to improve the current child welfare system. CASA for Douglas County has only been around for 20 years. It takes time and money to launch an organization, to establish trust and a stalwart reputation. Thanks to the hard work of CASA’s Executive Director Kim Thomas, her terrific staff and the Juvenile Court Judges word is spreading about the work CASA’s are doing and the difference it makes in a child’s life when someone actually listens to their wishes.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Most people don’t know that I have a degree in speech pathology/audiology and worked in that field until my husband Mike and I adopted a three year old little girl who needed my undivided attention. Watching her “bloom” to become an incredible woman is the greatest gift any mom could ever experience.