“Once you have seen the true inner workings of the foster care system and you see the need, it’s very hard if you’re capable to not do something about that.”
Originally from St. Joseph, Missouri, Haley Carson is a CASA volunteer with a diverse career in child welfare as well as a passion for volunteering. She has volunteered at hospitals, mentored as a youth group leader, and served underprivileged youth as an Americorp member. “I have always felt compelled to give my time,” Haley shared.
Haley has an incredibly unique perspective as a CASA volunteer for several reasons.
Her experiences volunteering as early as high school put her on a path to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Social Work. After graduating, Haley began her career as a caseworker at the Department of Human Services (DHS), where she worked for over a year. Afterward, Haley joined the team at CASA of Northwest Arkansas as an Advocate Supervisor! To say that she knows her way around child welfare and foster care in Arkansas would be an understatement.
“When you’re a caseworker you have 30-40 cases, and you just can’t do it all alone. I quickly realized that the case I was working on couldn’t be as successful as it was without [the CASA].”
One contributing factor to the overarching need that our CASA volunteers fill in our community is the reality that DHS caseworkers are simply overburdened with cases. To name just a few responsibilities, caseworkers regularly need to prepare for and attend court hearings by creating court reports, case plans, and exhibits. They also need to follow up on court orders, transport children for visits, make referrals for medical and therapeutic services, and visit their kids’ placements once a month, all while documenting everything they do for each case. And, of those 30-40 cases, a caseworker may be responsible for 50-80 kids.
“We got to the point where there was only me and another girl working all the foster care cases,” Haley said. Since DHS is often short-staffed, it can quickly become overwhelming for any one caseworker, which is why it is crucial that these children have a CASA looking out for them along the way.
For someone like Haley, though, just because the work is difficult does not mean it is not worth it. After about four years as an Advocate Supervisor, Haley left CASA to work as a social worker with the Rogers School District. That’s when she switched her role from managing several advocates to becoming one herself.
“I jumped straight in. Before I was officially gone, I had my first case. Now I’m on my fourth case.”
Haley’s favorite part of being a CASA volunteer is working with the families. “I feel hopeful when I’m on a case and I’m working with the children and parents,” Haley said. Recalling her first case, Haley shared how happy it made her to see it end in reunification. “Seeing that mom have her children back made it all worth it. Knowing that you can make an impact doing something that doesn’t alter your life that much but can make a HUGE difference for children and other family; it’s all worthwhile to be a part of those moments”.
“I have always felt pushed toward helping people; I feel both a desire and an obligation. It’s very rewarding for me to help and I have the capacity, and there’s obviously a huge need.”
On top of being a CASA volunteer, Haley currently works with the Rogers School District as a social worker, where she continues to provide services to underprivileged youth. While Haley’s background in child welfare makes her perspective unique, the care and compassion that all our volunteers put into their cases has the potential to change a child’s story for the better.