Day in the Life and Volunteer of the Month 

September Speak Up
Day in the Life: Patti Beste

My name is Patti Beste and I have been a CASA volunteer since January 2015. I retired from LSU after twenty-five years of service where I served in various positions as a counselor, Assistant Dean and finally Senior Associate Registrar. Now I am enjoying life as a realtor for CJ Brown and love helping family, friends and anyone buy and sell all the wonderful houses in Baton Rouge. In addition, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and work part time as the Site Counselor for City Year Baton Rouge, an Americorp Agency. I have a twenty-three year old daughter who recently graduated from LSU and two dogs, Bundy and Freddie. I often thought about becoming a CASA volunteer and called a couple of times to get orientation details. I found the right time and decided to attend orientation and complete training. 

I was assigned to my case in January 2015 to a two-year old girl named Melissa. Melissa’s mother, Dana, allegedly used drugs and was taken to the hospital. During the court hearing to address this matter, the mother was able to retain custody of Melissa due to an informal adjustment agreement that provided a safety monitor. After several months, Dana violated the terms of the informal adjustment agreement and Melissa entered foster care due to neglect.  

I am thankful that I was able to quickly bond with Melissa. Each month, we visited some of her favorite places which included the library, LASM, or the park. As most two-year olds do, she loved to swing and read books. Initially, Melissa was a bit sad and sullen but over time I saw her develop into a confident, self-assured little girl due to her placement with a loving, foster family who wanted to adopt her if possible.

I attended court with Melissa on a couple of occasions to monitor Dana’s progress under the informal adjustment agreement. One of the most challenging aspects of this case was to see how much Melissa loved Dana and how visibly upset Melissa got each time she left her mother at court. Once Melissa was freed for adoption, I advocated for Melissa to be adopted by her foster family. Finding a permanent, solid, happy place for Melissa as quickly as possible was top priority. 

One frustration that I had was how long it took for the adoption to be finalized as it was over a year long wait. In July, all frustrations ceased when I was able to witness the adoption at court and know that there will be no further changes in Melissa’s life. Case frustrations aside, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a CASA volunteer is the relationship that I developed with Melissa. 

Witnessing Melissa blossom over the years was truly a rewarding experience for me and knowing that she has a forever family who loves her makes it all worth it in the end. 

Names changed for confidentially purposes. 

September Speak Up
Volunteer of the Month: John Douet

It is with great pleasure that I introduce John Douet as September’s Volunteer of the Month. John completed training in October 2016 and graciously accepted his first CASA case in November 2016. He was assigned to work with a sibling group, Eric age 11 and Evelyn age 9. John was their second CASA volunteer. The children entered foster care in August 2015 as a result of neglect/dependency. Allegedly, the children were sleeping in a park and at a neighbor’s home for the entire summer. School was about to start and the children were told they had to go home. Their mother refused to allow them in the house. A call was made to the DCFS hotline and Eric and Evelyn entered foster care where they remain to date with the hopes of being reunited with their father, Sam.      

John faced many challenges with his case. Eric was acting out and wanted to be placed in the same foster home as his sister. He had several placement disruptions. Evelyn adjusted well to her foster home and she too wanted to be placed in the same foster home as Eric. Advocating for the children to be placed together was an ongoing task. John worked hard to meet the caregivers and arrange for Eric and Evelyn to visit with each other at least once a month. He was willing to pick up both children to allow them time to visit and have some sense of normalcy on a monthly basis. 

Meanwhile, John observed the children with Sam during court hearings. He recognized that Eric and Evelyn had an excellent bond with Sam. At that moment, John understood that to achieve permanence; he had to establish a relationship with Sam. Their mother’s whereabouts were unknown. She stopped coming to court hearings and participating in Family Team Meetings. John met with Sam and established ongoing contact with him. 

They discussed the importance of Sam attending AA meetings, maintaining stable housing and employment. John discussed with Sam the positive benefits from having a support system in place as he had never cared for Eric and Evelyn independently. John knew there would be hiccups along the way. After observing several supervised visits and monitoring the children’s behavior with Sam, John advocated for the children to have weekend visits with him. John wanted to be proactive instead of reactive. John wanted a plan to have services in place for when Eric and Evelyn began the trial placement with Sam. John was able to assist Sam in recognizing some of his weakness in order to set up a support system. Sam appreciated John’s assistance.  

John is deserving of this recognition because he submitted his volunteer monthly reports and court reports, attended court hearings and family team meetings, advocated for school services and met monthly with Eric and Evelyn and their caregivers. In addition, he connected with Sam and met him where he was – he did not raise the bar or allow others to raise the bar. John was able to set aside his personal values and beliefs and advocate for permanence for this family. John knew he had to step outside of the box to achieve permanence for Eric and Evelyn. To date, they are on a trial placement with Sam. Eric and Evelyn are attending school as expected and adjusting well in their dad’s home. We are optimistic that this case will satisfactorily close with resources in place if needed.
I am proud to call myself John’s Advocate Supervisor! I am ecstatic to have him as part of the CASA team. He has demonstrated his abilities to work with people of differing cultural and ethnic backgrounds. John presents himself in a professional manner when advocating on behalf of Eric and Evelyn. Individuals affiliated with this case speak highly of him. It is John’s commitment and dedication to this family that I respect and admire the most.   

Sharon L. Norwood
Advocate Supervisor

Names changed for confidentiality purposes. 

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