Today, we celebrate the birthday of A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, whose stories have delighted millions of children and adults alike for the past 9 decades. Milne's stories doubtless have much to teach children, about loyalty, kindness, curiosity, and friendship. Looking back on Winnie the Pooh, I was surprised to realize how much wisdom there is for adults, particularly CASA volunteers, in the pages of his stories.
"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen, though. That's the problem."
The children we serve at CASA are not used to having adults listen to them. In the child welfare system, kids are often told what they will be doing instead of asked what they want. Taking the time to truly listen to a kid won't only help secure the important information needed for the case, it'll help kids to feel safe and valued.
On Reserving Judgment
"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."
It can be easy to walk in with preconceived ideas about the people on a case, about uncooperative parents, children with behavior issues or caseworkers with whom we may disagree. CASA volunteers learn not to write people off and that sometimes we don't understand someone's actions because we don't know the whole situation. By withholding judgment we give weeds the chance to prove they are flowers.
On Being Proactive
"You can't stay in your corner of the forest, waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."
CASA volunteers don't wait for the right people to come to them, they seek opportunities to help kids. When volunteers feel stuck on a case, they can brainstorm with their supervisors or reach out to the Family Finding team for help.
"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."
Sometimes, it feels like no one is listening. Kids are acting out or biological parents aren't following their service plan. CASA volunteers should be proactive, but also be patient. Some people just need a little more time to get the fluff out of their ears.
"Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."
Teenagers are tough in the best of circumstances, but teens who have experienced trauma can really test boundaries. Don't let the fact that they seem big or more capable distract you from the fact that they need kindness, too. TBRI* teaches us that making a child feel safe and cared for has a much stronger effect than traditional discipline.
On Healthy Goodbyes
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
The end of a case, when we have to say goodbye to a kid we've worked with for months or even years, is hard for everyone involved. We have to remember what a privilege it is to be able to step in and help these kids during such a difficult time and how saying goodbye means they are ready to start a happier, safer time in their lives.
*Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is a cornerstone of CASA's work in Trauma-Informed Advocacy. It's a therapeutic model that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for children from hard places. CASA partners with TCU’s Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development, the creators of TBRI, to implement it for use with children in foster care. Learn more about TBRI and how CASA uses it to help children heal.
Holidays January 2017