By Sara Blake
For most of his adult life, Terry Walker has found ways to champion kids. Terry has been a child mentor, a coach, a school resource officer, and now, a CASA volunteer; in addition to raising his own son, niece, and nephew.
"I knew when I retired from law enforcement that I wanted to keep helping kids, so I signed up for a CASA info session."
Terry enlisted in the military after finishing high school in Jacksonville, North Carolina. During his 20 years of service, he met and married his wife of 32 years and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “My wife is from Texas, so we moved here to be closer to her family for my last few years of service.” After retiring from the military, Terry spent 12 years as a school resource officer and consequently was introduced to CASA. “I saw volunteers at the school who gave me an idea of what CASA was,” Terry explains. “I knew when I retired from law enforcement that I wanted to keep helping kids, so I signed up for a CASA info session.”
"In volunteer training, we learned how the child protective system was developed and how it often negatively affects children who are minorities,” Terry shares. “But I’m proud that CASA is looking to improve that."
Because of the nature of his work with kids and specifically his time working in a school, Terry has often interacted with kids from tough family situations and backgrounds. “I’ve learned to look beyond their circumstances to see that they’re just children,” says Terry. His work experience also made Terry familiar with the disproportionality of the criminal justice system regarding race and ethnicity, but he was admittedly disappointed to learn that the foster care system has many of the same disparities. “In volunteer training, we learned how the child protective system was developed and how it often negatively affects children who are minorities,” Terry shares. “But I’m proud that CASA is looking to improve that.”
While Terry has worked with kids in many capacities, his first case with a teenager had a lot of unknowns; particularly because the teen’s placement was in another city. “It took time to see the whole picture and what specific issues this kid was dealing with,” Terry explains. “But luckily, I was able to visit more often than CASA required, and over time we established a real relationship.”
"It took time to see the whole picture and what specific issues this kid was dealing with. But luckily, I was able to visit more often than CASA required, and over time we established a real relationship."
The effort Terry put into building that relationship paid off because the teen has chosen to stay in touch with Terry since aging out of care. (When cases close, because CASA’s role is appointed by the Court and specific to the legal case, volunteers cease contact with children and families as part of the child and family’s healthy transition out of the child welfare system. However, when teens turn 18, they sometimes choose to reconnect with their CASA volunteer, who can then agree to re-engage as stable adult support for the youth. When teens reach out in this way, it is often a positive sign that they recognize the presence of a safe adult in their lives!) “It felt really good that they chose to reach out to me. Maybe I did something right!” Terry smiles.
Terry encourages anyone who can to look for opportunities to focus on kids because there are so many who need our support. “Consider volunteering with CASA. I’ve found that it doesn’t take much of your time, and it’s a great way to give back.”
Could CASA be your passion? The children we serve are waiting for dedicated and caring community members just like you. Learn more on our Volunteer page or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom. If you're ready to begin your volunteer journey, apply today!
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