When you meet CASA advocate Linda Cudney, it is hard not to be inspired. She describes herself as a wife and mother, but her list of vocations, experience, and education goes on and on. Linda first heard of CASA from the Dr. Phil show while she was still working as a teacher. When she retired, she knew she would do something with children and tried out a few volunteer opportunities. After attending CASA’s Light of Hope luncheon, she knew her time to serve as an advocate had finally come.
On April 2, 2014, Linda took her first case. With five children in the family, it’s a fairly unusual case for a rookie advocate. To be fair, she started the case with a partner and based on preliminary information, it looked like the case would close quickly. But, more than 1,000 hours of service later, her work is far from over.
The challenges to this case are many, and the days have been long. But, when she’s disappointed with an outcome or court decision, she schedules a home visit to see her CASA kids. Once she sees their smiles and gets their hugs, she can refocus on what needs to be done and why she’s there. She embraces their joy and fun-loving personalities right along with their frustrations and anger.
The thing that surprised Linda about serving as an advocate was how quickly the children turn from feelings of despair to feelings of joy and hope when they have the opportunity to be connected with a team of compassionate adults that consistently show they care. She is proud to be a part of that team and serves collaboratively with CASA staff, DHS caseworkers, foster parents/custodians, and various medical and educational teams.
Given the complexity of the case, it would easy for anyone to get overwhelmed. When we asked Linda why she stays, it was an easy answer for her, “the great children I serve deserve a better future.” Between the five children, they have had 60 different placements over the last two years. When she calls new foster parents and introduces herself, Linda is no longer surprised that they are expecting her call. It turns out, when the kids land in a new home or facility, they ask their new guardian when Ms. Linda is coming. And, if the guardian doesn’t know, the children answer, “Soon. She’ll be here in a couple of days”. In a world of uncertainty, these children can always count on Ms. Linda. What a legacy to leave in the hearts of these children.