In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Laurie Kadair found herself at the Baton Rouge River Center going cot to cot in search of CASA children who might have been lost in the fray. CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocates—teams willing adults up with foster care children to ensure that someone is looking out for their best interests and to help them reach safe, permanent homes. Many people were without permanent homes after the hurricane hit Louisiana.
“There were wall-to-wall people in cots, and lots of kids,” recalls Kadair. “It was extremely crowded. People were shell shocked.”
This is just the kind of situation that Kadair—a CASA volunteer since 2003—does not shy away from. She first started volunteering for the organization after a coworker, who had adopted several children from foster care, introduced her to the group. With no kids of her own, Kadair seized the opportunity to help other children in the community. She works as an advocate for each child assigned to her, maintaining contact with the child’s parents, foster parents and teachers, among others. Then she reports to the court every six months as the case progresses through the system.
“Most people assume that they should be lawyers or otherwise involved in the legal system to be a CASA volunteer,” says Kadair, who specializes in trust administration, estate planning and successions at Kadair Law Firm. “In fact, anyone who cares can be a volunteer. The training is very effective, and no special knowledge is necessary.”
The CASA advocate only needs a passion for the less fortunate.
Kadair exercised her passionate voice with the first case she ever took on—a case that lasted more than five years and involved a child who was severely disabled and unable to speak. She first met the girl in New Orleans, but the foster child evacuated to north Louisiana after Katrina. Kadair stayed involved with her case until the young woman was aging out of the foster care system.
“I was very concerned about her as an adult in a group home setting with no way to communicate,” says Kadair. She contacted Louisiana Guardianship Services—a group with a very large caseload—to see about having a guardian appointed to her for life. “So I basically begged them to take her case. They did, and I’m pleased to report that she is happy and healthy and still living in north Louisiana.”
Kadair loves being part of the positive solution for children who are placed into the foster care system, many of them there due to neglect or abuse. She dreams that one day the cycle will be broken—the cycle that resulted in the child being placed in the system to begin with. Until that day comes, Kadair will keep taking additional cases as she completes the one she is working on.
“CASA really does not require a huge time commitment. Many months, I spend only a few hours checking in on the child,” says Kadair. “I find it a very small commitment for a large, meaningful outcome.”
For more information, visit casabr.org.
How is your cause making a difference?
While others involved in the foster care system have large caseloads, CASA volunteers focus on one or two children at a time. We also have access to all people involved with the child such as teachers, doctors and therapists. This allows us to learn more about the child and report that information to the court.
What do you hope to achieve?
Our hope is to always have a CASA representative available for each child who enters the foster care system. Our goal is to find a safe and permanent home for each.
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you are engaged in?
I have no doubt that we are making a meaningful difference in the lives of children by our advocating for a safe and permanent home for each child.
If you know someone who would make a great Woman with a Cause in 2016, let us know by emailing [email protected]!