Jan 24 2019

Meet Volunteer Advocate Flor Castellanos

by Sara Blake

"When I was in middle school, I saw a family go through the adoption process – and I thought to myself, 'I want to do that one day.'"

Originally from Oklahoma, CASA volunteer Flor Castellanos moved to Lubbock, Texas to attend Texas Tech and receive her Bachelor's in German and International Studies. By the time she finished graduate school at UT with her Master's in Educational Psychology, Flor had fallen in love with Austin. Today, she works for the Multicultural Refugee Coalition, training refugees to be interpreters.

"I have two sisters, one older and one younger. I grew up with them, my grandparents and my mom. Both of my sisters now have 3 kids each, and we're very close, so I travel to see them and we spend holidays together," shares Flor. When she's not traveling to see her family, she's checking out the music scene in Austin and spending time with her church community at Crossroads Community Church.

"Last year when the parent/child separation at the border happened, I started to wonder if it was the time to take the next step."

The idea of adoption had tugged at Flor’s heart since childhood. As she grew older and learned more about the challenges of the foster care system, Flor began to think more seriously about fostering with the intention to adopt one day. "Last year when the parent/child separation at the border happened, I started to wonder if it was the time to take the next step," Flor explains. "But I realized I didn’t know a lot about how the child welfare system worked…I thought it would be wise to get involved with CASA and learn more about what exactly I'm getting myself into."

Initially, Flor was apprehensive about the time commitment it would take to be a CASA volunteer. Between work, visiting family, and her involvement at church, a lot of her time was already spoken for. But Flor has realized that "in life, you can make time for anything you want to prioritize. This is something that means a lot to me; the experience I'm gaining as a CASA volunteer is something that's important to me. And I have a lot of support through my supervisor. She's been amazing—I don't have to do it all on my own."

Like all of our volunteers, Flor brings several unique and personal qualities to her advocacy. Growing up speaking both English and Spanish, she was able to fill a need by being assigned to Spanish-speaking cases. Flor also requested to work specifically with sibling groups “because I would love to foster sibling groups one day. When I was younger, I was separated from my older sister for a while due to some home issues. Having that separation is hard for siblings—I can't imagine what it is like to be in a new home or environment, not knowing where your sibling is." Her first case has 3 kids!

If Flor were to ever give a TED Talk, she says it would be on, "Grief. Learning to grieve loss—loss not just in the context of death. I work with refugees, who have to grieve the loss of a home, the loss of friends and community. Kids who CASA serves have to grieve what they're used to, as they go through transition. As a society, Americans don't really learn how to grieve well. We mostly view it in the context of death. But what does it look like to process the loss of a home, community, stability, friendships, jobs, or an imagined future when your plans don't turn out as you hoped? Sometimes there is a clearer path to grieve things when they're gone forever, but what about when it's just not yours anymore? It can be harder to know how to grieve something that you know is still there, it's just no longer a part of your life."

"People are usually doing the best they can in their situation. You just never know what the other person is going through"

Like many of our volunteers, Flor's work with CASA has inspired her to reflect back on her own life. "I think it's hard to go through an experience like this and not appreciate the resources I've grown up with and the people who have stepped into my life as a role of supporter or mentor. It's also taught me to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is something I've never naturally been good at. But it's something that's bled into other areas of my life, which is good. People are usually doing the best they can in their situation. You just never know what the other person is going through."

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