High school graduation equals empty nests to fill

Jun 16 2015

High school graduation equals empty nests to fill

By Dawn Crane

With the school year and high school graduation wrapping up, we asked CASA volunteer Dawn Crane to share her experience as an empty nester who found a meaningful way to fill her newfound free time. 

Being a CASA volunteer has been a blessing. It keeps me busy after my daughter left for college and keeps me from being sad. And frankly my daughter is a much happier person for it.

I was one those parents that was involved in my child's education. I spent hours volunteering at her school and doing different things to benefit that community. When my daughter was in her senior year of high school, I was contemplating what I was going to do. I knew that, come the fall, things were going to open up for me and I would have a lot more down time. I'd considered CASA before but never felt I had the time. I thought, "My daughter is getting ready to go. Maybe I'll have some of that extra time now," and about the time my daughter left for college I started my CASA training classes. I haven't looked back since. It's been a great adventure. 

Being a CASA volunteer has stretched me and helped me to grow. It's made me a better person, a better human being. The longer I've been a CASA, the more I hear about the foster care system, the more educated I become, the more passionate I am. Once you realize what's going on in these kids' lives, you realize you've got to do something. Once you know what's happening, you can't look away. It feels like being called to do something. I want these kids to feel some kindness and some love and support.

I get back so much more than I give. I'm needed. Someone really, genuinely needs me. I had other things and other children who needed me. In a way I'm able to still nurture children, even though it's in a more professional manner. I still get that fix.

And maybe it's a little selfish. My kid is growing up. This is her generation.These are her peers and if these kids don't ever have a person who cares about them, not because it is their job to care but because these children are worthy and deserve it, I don't know what will happen to them. Being a CASA volunteer is making the world a better place, and not just for you and me, but also for my child and other people's children.

Everyone worries about time, but I'll tell you this: I've worked with six kids in three and a half years and three more on a Family Finding case. I do way more than what's required and I still have plenty of free time leftover. Since joining CASA, I started a Master's program. I'm a year into an MBA. I'm a business owner. We still do our travelling. I actually still have lots of free time leftover to do whatever I want.  You find the time or you make the time for what's important to you. And this is important to me.

If you're an empty nester like me, think about investing some of that extra time in someone else. Just a little of it in someone that will appreciate it so much. If you've ever considered it, there's a reason why. You owe it to yourself to invest an hour and a half to go to a CASA Info Session. Everybody's got that. That's like going to see a movie. Don't be afraid. You've invested how many years on this planet? Give just an hour and a half out of your entire life to find out more. Don't be fearful.

People ask me, "How can you do it?" How can I not do it? These kids are growing up in the system. Whether you want to look at it and be a part of it or not, they're here. We need more people. We need more CASA volunteers. If we don't do it, who's going to do it?