Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Linda!

Linda was sworn into service as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in June of 2021. During her eighteen months (and counting) of volunteering with Fairfax CASA, she has helped a family of five children reach their goal of a permanent and loving home. Though she just closed her first case, Linda has already stepped up and accepted another. We know Linda will continue to be tenacious in advocating for the best interests of the children she serves, and will provide hope during a difficult time in their lives.

Her supervisor Amy Prestidge says, “Linda took a case with one child that ultimately became a case with five children, and despite working full time, Linda was committed to the whole family, and did not once question accepting a larger caseload. If I could describe Linda in one word, it would be persistent. This case was a tough one, especially for a first time CASA, but none of that phased Linda and she tackled any challenge with determination and grace. Linda also wrote six court reports within 14 months (that is a lot). Linda has just accepted another case, and I am excited to know this teenager has Linda on her side!”

Read on to learn more about Linda and her time as a CASA.

What motivated you to become a CASA volunteer?

I got involved because a friend of mine was a CASA volunteer and she spoke very highly of her experience with the program. I have previously volunteered with other organizations to provide aid for victims of domestic violence and working with refugees from Ukraine. I’ve always wanted to help those in need.

What has been your most memorable CASA experience?

What really brought me joy was, at the visits, all five kids would run up to me and give me a big hug the same way my grandchildren do! This made it all seem worth it, to see these kids happy and excited to have me there. It was also great to see the family members who were willing to step up and take the children under their care. In my case, the children’s grandmother took full custody of the sibling group and I know it wasn’t easy, this was five children under the age of seven.

How did you connect with the kids on your case?

The one game I loved to play with them, that they also loved, was iSpy. What’s great about it is you don’t need any resources or materials and the kids just enjoyed it. Every time I went to a visit, they wanted to play iSpy together. I think they really just wanted someone to engage with them, whereas the other adults in their life may not have had time to play games with them. I could tailor the game to the child’s age to keep it interesting for them all. It really worked for them!

Outside of CASA, how do you like to spend your time?

I am a full-time professor at Marymount University in the forensic and legal psychology department. I previously retired from the federal government, having served in several national security positions. Outside of my work and volunteering, I love to play golf and travel. I also have a rescue dog, named Sophie, who I adore.

What advice would you give a new or prospective CASA?

I would say that my number one tip is to use your supervisor. They tell you that in training, but I was surprised by how true it is. My supervisor, Amy, is the best! I spent a lot of time on the phone with her talking through my case and she was so helpful and caring. Then of course, try to be as organized as possible. I found for this case I wrote a whole lot of court reports. It helped to have my documents organized to make it easier to write reports.

Be compassionate and listen hard to what the players in your cases are telling you. Sometimes it’s better to actively listen and understand than to ask a bunch of questions interview style. Be patient and hang in there! I work on my patience every day. With the cases, and the court system you have to be patient!

Do you feel you’ve made an impact as a CASA?

Sometimes throughout the case, I questioned whether I was making a difference, but today I’m confident that I’ve made a positive impact for the future of the children. You know in life you don’t always see the immediate impact. Like with my students, I might get an email from a student three years later saying “Hey remember when you did this? That really helped me.” And I had no idea at the time how important it was to them.

Thank you, Linda for your commitment to advocacy and always protecting the best interest of the children you serve!

You can make an impact like Linda! Take the first step to volunteering as a CASA and email us at volunteer@casafairfax.org.