When planning to retire in the Ozarks, Joe Bebout knew he wanted to invest in volunteering. Little did he know that one day he would be advocating for those who couldn’t for themselves.
Following his move to Arkansas, Joe’s wife unexpectedly received a cancer diagnosis. After losing her in 2015, Joe knew he wanted to turn something bad into something good. When a family member recommended Joe become a CASA, the journey to finding his niche and his ‘something good’ began. Fast forward two years, Joe is an advocate on two cases, both with teenage boys. From going to court and meetings to lending a hand whenever they are in trouble or need advice, Joe shows up for these teens.
The relationship between an advocate and a teenager differs greatly from a relationship between an advocate and a young child. As the signs and effects of persistent trauma and neglect manifest differently in older youth, it’s an advocate’s role to recognize these signs and respond appropriately. On a day-to-day basis, how a CASA volunteer communicates with their child differs based on age, emotional intelligence, and level of independence. While young children may need a hand to hold while they walk, teenagers often just want someone to walk beside them and ask them how their day was.
Though he says some moments are more challenging than others, Joe knows being a CASA is worth it when he sees both of the boys succeed in school or in their jobs. With each twist and turn, Joe is not scared of the process, but takes life as it comes and does what he can to be a mentor and helper to his teens. When asked to give advice to prospective CASA volunteers, Joe simply said: “Prepare yourself for frustration. Be patient, hold your judgment, keep your compassion, and try to understand a child’s background.”
Reflecting on these past couple of years, Joe said he feels like he got his life back on track. From becoming an advocate to falling in love again and getting engaged, Joe is finding his ‘something good.’ CASA is incredibly grateful to be a part of it.
Special thanks to intern Layne Coleman for authoring this story.