Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy Rooney

A woman stands before a fence and trees.

Nancy Rooney first took up volunteering for Fairfax CASA in 2018. In that time, Nancy has advocated and relentlessly served three families and eight children. She has been an essential part in the closing of two court cases and has spent 1072 hours on her work. In conversation with Nancy, you can really see her love for the children she serves. We really love Nancy! She informed me that the best part of being a CASA are the young boys she is serving currently. 

Read on to learn more about Nancy! 

What did you do before you retired? 

I retired seven years ago. A good part of my career was spent on the business side of healthcare technology working with companies that create and manage the electronic medical records that hospitals and doctors’ offices use to capture all our healthcare information and [most] importantly share it with the patient or share it with the next doctor or healthcare provider that you go to. I really enjoyed working in healthcare because it’s so important to all of our lives. 

Where are you from originally? 

I’m from Philadelphia, but I moved to Fairfax with my husband 40 years ago, so we’re really Northern Virginians now. We have two grown daughters and three grandchildren, which is a load of fun. I never anticipated having grandchildren would be this much fun. 

Do you have any hobbies? 

I enjoy lots of interests, although I’m not expert at any of them. Every year I try to learn a few more birds and wildflowers. I’m in two book clubs, I volunteer at our Unitarian church, and most weeks I go on hikes or adventures with a few friends. Since we are retired, my husband and I like to travel. Our last trip was kayaking in Baja California Mexico. I get life energy being outdoors. 

I also love to sail. I’ve belonged to a sailing club on Chesapeake Bay for 15 years, which has been such a joy in my life. 

How did you get into sailing? 

Years ago, I worked with a guy who was in the navy, and he sailed. He took me sailing a couple times on the Potomac River and I’ve loved sailing ever since. After having twin daughters, I didn’t have time to sail until my late 50s when I had taken three years off from work.  The first thing I did was join a sailing club. I started sailing every week, including crewing on a race boat in the Chesapeake Bay every Wednesday evening for four years. 

How is your CASA case going? 

Very well. I’ve been on my current case for three years. When I started the case in February of 2021 there were four boys living at home with their mother. There was a Protective Order (PPO) due to some domestic violence by the father. During this time mom had another baby. Unfortunately, instability and domestic violence continued so the five boys were removed from home and put in foster care two years ago.   

These boys are wonderful. They are lively, friendly, curious guys. The five brothers range in age from 2 to 12 years old and live in three different foster homes.  While each boy certainly has his own challenges, their foster parents are giving them warm structured homes in which the boys are developing emotionally, socially and educationally.  The stability of the foster homes allows them to develop the ability to manage their own behaviors, which they didn’t have before. 

My CASA volunteer work gives me a much broader awareness of how challenging life sometimes is for others. I tell my friends that CASA work is not “fun” in a traditional way, but it is really worthwhile work.

How do you find common ground with your CASA kids? 

We started by going to the neighborhood playground when I visited. I noticed that I could get to know them so much better outside as they played and explored. Inside, it was hard to hear them in a small, crowded space. I have always used being outside as a way to give them an experience they didn’t have often, but also as a way to let them to open them up. I start to see them as their natural selves. 

What is your most memorable experience that has come with being a CASA? 

In my prior case, I was party to a conference call between a biological mom, foster mom, and social worker. The young biological mom slowly grew to understand that the best thing for her medically fragile young son was to put the child up for adoption. When the foster mom said to the biological mom, “We would like to adopt him”, the biological mom was tearful and appreciative. She said, “God bless you. I was hoping you would.”  

I teared up as I listened to the biological mother say that she will give her vulnerable child to foster parents because they can offer him the best home for a safe, loving and stable life.  She thanked the foster mother deeply and blessed her and her husband for their love.  That was the most heart touching moment I’ve had in CASA work, and maybe in my life.  What is more profound that being a witness to a parent surrendering their child because it’s best for that child? 

What has surprised you the most about being a CASA? 

What has surprised me the most is the deep commitment that Fairfax County has to children in need, through the Department of Family Services (DFS). I have been very impressed by the amount of supportive treatments and resources over many years that Fairfax County invests in helping families that are in turmoil or in dysfunction to help the parents stabilize, learn and grow so they can care for their children.  I didn’t know this about Fairfax County. 

You’ve been here for five years. What motivates you to keep taking on CASA cases? 

I thoroughly enjoy it. To me, it is deeply meaningful and very important. I have learned a lot about other people’s lives and the challenges that many people face. I grew up as one of seven children, with all of my basic needs being met well, in a loving, stable, fun family. In this CASA volunteer job, I’ve learned about other people’s lives. Some people are born into situations that had shortfalls in parenting, income, education or other factors.  In my CASA cases, the parents love their children, but most of their childhoods were hard. They did not learn how to be good parents. My CASA volunteer work gives me a much broader awareness of how challenging life sometimes is for others. I tell my friends that CASA work is not “fun” in a traditional way, but it is really worthwhile work.

We at CASA have witnessed Nancy’s attentiveness and sincerity in her advocacy work.  She has made an incredible difference in her CASA kids’ lives. Our organization benefits greatly from her hard work, contributions and kind-heartedness. Thank you, Nancy!  We appreciate you!