Protector. Constant. Honest. These are the words that come to mind when thinking of CASA volunteer Debbie Torres.
Debbie’s always been a natural caregiver. Growing up in Kansas, she helped care for her four younger siblings. Later came motherhood and eventually grand-motherhood. When learning about CASA after she retired and settled in Northwest Arkansas, the thought of children being alone in the foster care system struck a chord. No child should be without a caring adult to watch over them and ensure they’re safe and healthy. And that’s where Debbie comes in.
Debbie has been working the same case with three children since she completed volunteer training in March 2018. She visits the kids, usually several times a month, to build their trust. This has been particularly important since they’ve had three different DHS workers throughout their case. The children have also moved several times, but Debbie has been right there with them, even helping them pack and transport their belongings. With so much upheaval in their lives, she makes sure they understand that she isn’t going anywhere.
From the very beginning of the case, Debbie told the kids she would always be honest with them. She insists she doesn’t sugarcoat things. “They need to know that somebody cares enough to be upfront with them.” When she’s checking in with the kids about their health or discussing important topics like placement and adoption, it’s too important to do anything but lay down the honest truth. That doesn’t mean those conversations are easy. The eldest, a teen boy, shared with Debbie that he thought he was too old to be adopted and worried that he was preventing his younger siblings from being adopted. What kind of trust must Debbie have built for this sweet boy to be so vulnerable?
Debbie is a tremendous asset to the CASA team. She will see this case to fruition and plans to continue advocating once it closes. In her advice to prospective volunteers, she said you should “expect to get attached.” From the sounds of it, the same advice could be given to the children on her next case.