This September we are featuring one of our wonderful volunteers, Gail Shapiro! A native of New York, Gail has been living in Virginia for 21 years. Since joining CASA in February of 2020, Gail has already advocated for 10 children from 5 families, carrying four cases at the same time (with special permission from DCJS). We are so grateful to Gail for being such an amazing advocate for the children she serves as a CASA and for all the other ways she jumps in and helps us, including volunteering at the race and speaking to new CASAs.
Keep reading for our interview with Gail!
How did you become a CASA? I retired before I was done wanting to help people and was looking for a way to continue my love for volunteering. I came across Fairfax CASA on a website for local volunteer opportunities and attended the information session. I left the session thinking you would have to be crazy to do this as a volunteer, since it is such an involved position, sometimes working the hours of a full-time job. But here I am!
Why do you continue to be a CASA? I love meeting families and helping them towards a good outcome. In one of my current cases I am working with the birth mother to keep the family intact, and that is really great. Overall, I enjoy trying to help the system come up with better outcomes, so that children can stay together with their families.
How is your current case going? I currently have four cases, with 9 kids in total, I will be seeing all 9 kids in the next week. My cases are going positively, but it is a busy time as cases and reports tend to fall together in the same timeframe.
What is your most positive CASA experience? I feel lucky that all of my cases have gone well in the past. I have 2 cases that are leading to adoption by foster parents, and both have had continued connection with their birth families. This is good as it allows children to still maintain a connection with their culture.
Outside of CASA, what do you like to do? I really love to volunteer, that is how I spend a lot of my free time, I participate in volunteer opportunities outside of CASA as well. Aside from volunteering I enjoy cooking and reading!
What advice would you give a new CASA? I think it is really important to keep an open mind and not be judgmental when entering a new case or situation. People do not always act or live in the ways that we would or think that they should, but it is important not to judge by the standards you walk in on. Children want to stay with their families, and just because someone lives differently than you might, it does not mean it is not a good place to call home. On first impressions, a foster home might look better, but many children do really want to stay with their families. I think we can work on doing more to support the biological family – as that is where kids want to be.