CASA Volunteer Cliff Shelton
I became a CASA because of the need and more specifically, because I enjoy being a voice for children. In September of this year I will have been a CASA for 2 years with the responsibility for two cases concurrently so far. I work professionally as a National Retail Sales Manager for US Cellular and on the weekends I work part-time at a shelter for kids at Children’s Square in Council Bluffs, IA. I'm also a permanent volunteer reading buddy at Completely Kids.
How did you first get involved with CASA?
I learned what a CASA was and became encouraged to get involved while living in Phoenix, AZ after hearing a speech by the former Arizona Cardinals head football coach, Bruce Arians. He’s apparently a big supporter of the program.
What has surprised you most about being a CASA?
I’m mostly surprised by the depth that I’m able to be involved in the child’s case and also by the respect and consideration given by the judges to my recommendations.
What do you find most challenging about the child welfare system or CASA?
Speed of action seems to be the biggest challenge. I’ve been lucky to work on cases with very involved and considerate professionals but it does take time before cases are ruled on.
How do you balance giving time to your CASA case with your job/family/life obligations?
I typically spend anywhere between one and a half to 3 hours per week total on both cases that I’m assigned to. That leaves for plenty of time to focus on work, family, and friends.
What's the best thing to happen since you started working/volunteering with CASA?
The best thing that’s happened so far is that I’ve been able to develop a level of trust from the children. Once they learn that I genuinely care about them and their ultimate outcome it makes for a rewarding relationship.
What do you wish other people knew about CASA?
I wish that others knew how easy it is to get involved and how important their voice can be for a child in need.
Why are you supporting CASA as opposed to other groups working on child welfare?
I do support other groups as well but as a CASA I’ve been able to advocate directly with the court system which I’ve found to be profoundly impactful.
Tell me about some of the people you've met while working at CASA?
In my role as a CASA I’ve met school administrators, State workers, attorneys, judges, parents of the children, therapists, and of course other CASA volunteers.
Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to work with CASA?
As mentioned, while watching a speech by Bruce Arians he spelled out the need for involvement in the program and talked about the steps to get involved. Afterward, I did some research and make contact with the CASA office in Phoenix. I had gone through their initial screening before learning that I was being relocated with my company back to Omaha.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Someone might be surprised to learn that I’ve volunteered with children in one aspect or another since my senior year in college when I joined Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Since then I’ve been a Teammates Mentor, a volunteer at Our Children’s House of Baylor in Dallas, TX, a SafePlace volunteer in Phoenix, AZ and now both a CASA and Completely Kids volunteer.
The interest in CASA seems to be growing. Why do you think that is?
I think that CASA, through it’s various advertising mediums, is doing a great job of spreading the word about the program.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about donating or volunteering?
It takes less time than you think and the reward is far greater than they can imagine.
What do you think will change about CASA over the next five years?
Hopefully in the next five years CASA will have grown to a point where ALL kids have an assigned CASA to speak to the courts on their behalf.
If you weren't serving as a CASA Volunteer, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
If I weren’t a CASA I’d still find time to volunteer with kids and/or other programs that I’m passionate about.