Volunteer Spotlight

Karen & Eric Forman are an incredibly kind husband and wife team who found their way to Fairfax CASA almost 14 years ago. Although they began their journey at Fairfax CASA separately, they found they were more formidable as a team, and have served cases as a pair ever since. During her time as a CASA, Karen has served five families and 14 kids and has spent 1,723 hours advocating for the children in her cases. Eric has served five families and 17 kids and has spent 1,219 hours working on his cases. They are both very active in their community and spend a great deal of time with their grandchildren. They are quite the dynamic duo, and while they remain busy, they are never too busy to spend time with their CASA children.

Read on to learn more about Karen and Eric.

F: What brought you to CASA?

E: Karen suggested it.

K: We retired within six months of each other, and we knew we wanted to do some meaningful work and give back. We’ve been very fortunate in life. I was reading the paper and found an ad for CASAs. We looked into it and went through training, and the rest is history. It’s been a huge part of our wanting to give back to society…We also do other volunteer work.

F: Do you?

E: We’re both very active in our synagogue, but beyond that I am also a docent guide at the National Air Space Museum.

K: I am a meals coordinator. I make a lot of meals for people in our congregation that need assistance.

E: I also take classes at George Mason University and a number of programs.

F: Any hobbies?

K: We’re very busy with our grandkids. We have four of them, and they all live in Bethesda. We constantly are babysitting or going to a baseball or soccer game. I also like to golf. I took that up when I retired, but Eric doesn’t golf.

E: I like photography, listening to music, and reading.

F: What did both of you do before retirement?

E: Unlike Karen, who was a guidance counselor and director of student services in a high school, my career was in the federal government as a manager of large programs—a very macro view of the world—a national view, in fact, and here at CASA it’s an extremely micro view. It’s individuals and families at this particular point in time, and it was for me an interesting change. The professionals with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with have a different focus than the professionals I worked with in my employment years, so it’s been for me a growth experience on a number of levels.

K: I started my career as a history teacher but then went to George Mason and got my counseling degree. I changed into a guidance counselor and then I eventually became director of student services, which is an administrative job.

F: How have you tackled CASA cases together? How are the ones you have currently going?

K: We’ve been doing this for 13 years. In the beginning, the goal was to finish a case within the year…it has changed over time. When we started our first couple of cases were separate.

E: We have one case now. We have two kids, and they have two different fathers. The two kids are both in safe places—originally taken away from the mother who is working hard at recovery and extremely conscientious about it at this point in time.

F: You guys have that unique perspective of not going through CASA training and CASA cases alone. You now do the work together. How has that been?

K: As we are getting older, we divide and conquer. I’ll handle certain issues like the school issues. He’ll handle getting information from doctors [and so forth]. I also find that…I feel safer going into homes with someone versus by myself.

E: Some of these [cases] where having a couple people deal with it simultaneously helps keep it straight because sometimes it can get very confusing. I think it works out well. I do more of the writing and the actual reports, and we found somehow it actually works out.

K: It’s also nice to be able to discuss together because of the issue of confidentiality. It’s nice to be able to share and discuss cases. That’s helpful.

F: How has being able to share this experience affected you both?

E: It allows us to be more effective. If there’s a difficulty, one of us will spot it.

K: This is the only real thing we do together. I mean we do things with grandkids and whatever, but his interests and my interests can be very different, and so we share this interest.

F: Normally, I ask how volunteers would describe themselves, but I want to do something different here. I want to know how you guys would describe each other. Karen, how would you describe Eric and vice versa?

K: My goodness. Eric has a very good sense of humor. He’s very intelligent. He listens well… not to me (laughs), but to the case and the parents.

F: Eric, how would you describe Karen?

E: Intelligent, focused, empathetic, conscientious.

F: In your opinion, what qualities are essential for a successful CASA volunteer?

K: CASAs have patience, determination, and diplomacy.

E: And concern and objectivity at the same time, which is not always the same thing.

F: You guys have been doing this together for almost 14 years. What motivates you to continue to take cases?

E: I find it an interesting opportunity, and I think we’ve been helpful in ways that we would not have otherwise.

K: We had one case with four kids, and it was wonderful to see.

E: [The mother] was sent to parenting class. Some people just go to parenting class, and they put in the time. She went there, and it was a revelation to her. It was a revelation. I said, “Like what?” She said for example, “The idea of encouraging your children.” She thought that was a really good idea.

K: I think it also gave her confidence to get rid of the father and be a parent to these four kids. So, she got the kids back, and it was nice to see.

We have immense pride in the work Karen and Eric do for CASA. Their tenacity and humility speak volumes, as does their dedication to the children and families of Fairfax County.

Thank you, Karen & Eric!