A volunteer’s perspective on reunification

Reunification can be hard to understand, and many CASA volunteers are unsure about working with parents when they take their first case. We asked veteran volunteer Deanna Cicatiello for her perspective on reunification and working with parents in this Q&A.

Q: Was it hard to imagine working with parents when you first became a CASA volunteer?

A: “I was unsure about working with parents. After all, their actions resulted in their kids being taken from their custody. But once I started working cases, I‘d learn more about them and become invested in their success.”

Q: What surprised you about working with parents?

A: “It didn’t take long for me to realize that in some situations, they’re not bad people; they’ve simply made bad choices. And in a lot of cases, the parents have suffered their own trauma that they continue to struggle with. That adds another layer of difficulty to things.”

Q: How has your view of parents changed since working with them?

A: “My experiences have definitely made me more compassionate and understanding. I realize how important it is to go in with an open mind. They may have gotten in a bad relationship or they just need some help. I’ve definitely become less judgmental.”

Q: What are some of the issues they have to overcome?

A: “One of the biggest is probably sobriety when drugs and alcohol are involved. Getting over an addiction takes enormous effort. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially if they don’t have support.”

Q: How do you help parents when the case’s goal is reunification?

A: “Working toward reunification is a long process, and they might feel like they’re not getting anywhere. One of the most important things I can do is encourage them and let them know that someone’s in their corner. When parents get the case plan with the list of what they have to do if reunification is going to be an option, it’s overwhelming and intimidating. I think even just one person calling and checking on them and offering consistent encouragement can make the difference between failure and success.”

Q: Has seeing parents’ successes inspired you?

A: “Absolutely. In my first reunification, it was a mother wanting to reunify. I could see how hard she was working. It would’ve been so much easier for her to just keep doing what she was doing before, but she was committed to becoming a better person and a better mom for her kids.”