“It’s such rich fulfillment; knowing that every job matters in child welfare. We all play a vital role, and just knowing that I get to make a difference, no matter how small it is; It’s fulfilling.”
Originally from Benton, Arkansas, Sarah Bradshaw has been involved in the world of child welfare for over twenty years. Her experience working with children began when she worked at a daycare part-time in college. After finishing her undergraduate degree in 2003 at Arkansas Tech, she earned her graduate degree in 2006 from the University of Central Arkansas in early childhood education and began her career as a kindergarten teacher in Little Rock.
When Sarah and her husband Brad had their first child, she decided to step away from the classroom— but she knew she was not finished in the world of child welfare and education.
Fast-forward to 2014, Sarah and Brad decided to open their home and their lives as foster parents. Between 2014 and 2018, they made their home available to 32 children— and in 2017, they adopted a child.
Even though Sarah and Brad closed their foster home shortly after adopting, Sarah knew it was only a matter of time before she would find herself back in the world of foster care.
“Since we closed [our foster home], foster care has been my heart… I pursued CASA because I knew that was a way that I could keep my foot in a world I loved. Having served as a foster parent for so long, I had countless CASAs that were just phenomenal. I knew what a valuable resource they were when they served my child well.”
Sarah, Brad, and their now four children made their way to Northwest Arkansas, and in February 2022, Sarah became a CASA Volunteer.
Having the experience of being a foster parent provides an incredibly unique perspective on how to advocate effectively for a child’s best interest. When Sarah was a foster parent, she worked with several CASA volunteers. “It’s easier to see what was helpful and what was not helpful, having been on the other side of the table,” she said.
Sarah saw the potential of how much of an impact a CASA volunteer could make when she met one of the CASAs on her kids’ cases.
“She [the CASA Volunteer] came very regularly. She was there when she said she was going to be there. She really became a part of the case. … they were willing to get down in the weeds with the child; willing to go above and beyond the bare minimum and really invest in the details.”
There is no question that having experience in child welfare can be an advantage for a CASA Volunteer, but a key component to the CASA model is that our volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. Most CASAs do not have professional experience in child welfare or the court system, but no matter their base level of knowledge each volunteer receives preservice training and continuing education.
Our Advocate Supervisors are the best resource for our CASAs. Each supervisor has extensive education and experience in child welfare. Even with all of Sarah’s experience, she is in constant communication with her supervisor, Sadie Perkins.
Sarah wants to really get into the details of the case so she can see all the moving parts, and she loves to build meaningful relationships in the process. “There are times that it can feel insignificant but knowing as a foster parent how excited they got when they knew their CASA was coming; knowing that they felt seen, heard, and valued,” Sarah shared.
The relationships that Sarah and our other CASAs create with their kiddos and the bonds that they build are irreplaceable. Not every CASA has experience in child welfare, and even fewer are former foster parents. But individuals like Sarah serve as an example of someone dedicating their ability to help children in.