“What makes it worth it for me are just the small interactions where you see someone is truly happy to see you; when they feel in that moment that someone really cares for them. Knowing you are loved goes a long way in the grand scheme of things.”
It’s hard not to wonder how someone like Cindy Rauth can manage all the different roles she plays in her life. She is respectively a parent, an educator, a student, a caretaker, and a working professional. The seemingly immense responsibilities Cindy has would be a lot for anyone—and she does have her limits, but she is drawn to helping others and is motivated by the love she has for the people around her.
Cindy loves to spend quality time with her two teenagers and husband at home. In her free time, you may find her researching for her Ph.D. dissertation she is currently working on, or teaching ESL classes to individuals aged 18-80. Cindy also works as an Academic Coordinator for ESL programs at the University of Arkansas.
Cindy has also been a CASA volunteer for three years.
“I attended a [CASA 101 Info] session because I wanted to do something that could make an impact. I was thinking, ‘this is awful, I can’t just do nothing.’”
Cindy’s academic focus revolves around language and identity, and she has always wanted to work with Latino families. When Cindy first learned about CASA through a friend that worked with immigrant families in late 2019, she was taking a class on U.S.-Mexico border relations at the time. She remembers thinking to herself, “I shouldn’t just be learning about this in school, I should be doing it.” Cindy wanted to help Hispanic and Latino families in a direct, impactful way, and learned that CASA would be a great way to do that. It wasn’t long after on November 4, 2019, Cindy was formally sworn in as a CASA volunteer and had her first case just before Christmas.
“My main job is just to give them love. My teen was exhausted with no understanding of what it meant to be a non-English speaker from another country with language barriers, being on your own off and on since the age of 13.”
Cindy is on a break from volunteering right now but has worked two cases already that involved Latino families. She has found that being a CASA turned out to be exactly how she wanted to help. Thinking of her time as a CASA so far, she described one case where she needed to help her teen navigate financial and legal paperwork, obstacles that were compounded by language and status barriers. “No one really understands that,” Cindy said. There is no one else in the system whose sole focus is to look out for the best interest of the child, and when there are language ethnicity barriers involved, those obstacles are only amplified.
In terms of differing cultures, it is crucial for the stakeholders in child welfare to keep in mind that many Hispanic/Latino families may have different cultural practices and barriers. Housing dynamics of extended/immediate family, language, traditions, beliefs, and identity may all come into play when handling a case, and a somewhat elevated level of cultural competence is necessary to be able help in the best ways possible. If not for Cindy, it would have been incredibly difficult for her teen to not only understand the different dimensions of the case, but also how to work through them.
“I hope I was able to advocate on their behalf so others would see past some of the more obvious struggles that they had, and to see their real strengths.”
Cindy learned through her own experiences that she should approach these situations as a good listener and observer, shelving her own assumptions and giving space to understand the circumstances. This is an important characteristic that our CASA volunteers are asked to always carry with them. The children our advocates serve are victims; plain and simple. They did not ask to be raised in the circumstances that may have led to their removal from their home. They did not ask to juggle a new home, a new school, a new family, and a new life. Many of the negative emotions and behaviors that children in foster care might exhibit can often be directly attributed to those environmental factors.
This is why children in care need consistency, support, and guidance. They may have several foster parents, caseworkers, therapists, and teachers that may help provide those, but they rarely have more than one CASA. We are grateful for volunteers like Cindy because they are ordinary people that have made an extraordinary decision: they know they want to help, they know they can, and so they do.
“These kids are learning and noticing, feeling good in these small moments. I have to hope and believe that there will be long term impacts.”