This month, we celebrate Debra Walker, a volunteer advocate in Rogers County since May of 2014.
Debra is married with three grown sons. She has a three year old grandson who is “the greatest joy in [her] life.” She worked as a registered nurse for 22 years. Debra and her husband have also previously served as foster parents.
Debra recalls first hearing about CASA on a Saturday morning on the radio. “I knew that I had to do this” she said as she remembered waiting eagerly for Monday to come so she could get more information. She signed up for the next available class.
After her initial training, Debra had to overcome a few challenges. She commented on the difficulty of her first case. “I did not really know how to get started. I knew what we talked about in class but making those first few phone calls was very difficult.” Beyond the hurdle of getting started, Debra faced opposition with the mother of the child involved in her case.
Debra persevered through that initial case. That case, however, was so trying that she needed a break from volunteering. Debra said serving with CASA “is not to be taken lightly and it is not all smiles and thank yous.” Debra, however, is an overcomer.
With encouragement and support from the CASA staff, especially her Advocate Coordinator Sandra Rains, Debra took another case. This time was different. Having previously been a foster parent in a kinship placement, Debra “could relate to and felt connected with the parents” of her new case. Looking back, she said “This case gave me the confidence I needed to be a better CASA.”
Overall, Debra’s heart and goal is right in line with that of the CASA program. She said “If a child can go home and be safe and be taken care of properly, that is wonderful.” Later, she added “When a child gets adopted into a family that sincerely loves them that is success. You feel like it is forever, not just foster care, but a true home.”
When asked about the specifics of working with the children involved in her cases, Debra said it was helpful to have her own grandson. The kids she has served were close to the same age. Debra said “Thanks to my own grandson, I have a very good knowledge of the Paw Patrol characters and that seems to help.”
Debra was quick to encourage anyone considering supporting or volunteering with CASA to “Do it today! If I can do it,” she added, “I know they can do it too.”
Debra’s heart and passion for the work she is doing shines through. “You will experience the full range of emotions while working as a CASA. You will be heartbroken by the circumstances that brought the child into the legal system. You will be happy for each step of progress the parent makes. You will beam with pride when the child smiles at you!”
When asked to describe Debra’s work with CASA, Sandra Rains was quick to say “Debra is extremely humble. She underestimates her impact on the families she has touched through her work as a child advocate. She is quiet, but she is always observing and will speak up about issues that need to be addressed. She keeps the needs of the children as her top priority.”
As an organization, CASA could not ask for any better volunteer. Debra has dedicated herself to her work. She has overcome struggles. Most importantly, she has persevered and positively impacted both children and families.
Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma/CASA
Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a CASA agency that recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers to be the “voice” for abused and neglected children in the judicial system.
With offices in Claremore and Miami, the organization supports CASA volunteers in five counties in northeastern Oklahoma – Rogers, Mayes, Craig, Ottawa, and Delaware Counties. The agency also serves the courts of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma.
Child Advocates of Northeastern Oklahoma is a member agency of the United Way of Rogers and Mayes Counties and the Ottawa County United Way.
People interested in learning more about CASA can find information about on the agency’s website: http://cano-casa.com.
by Brandon Fletcher – Marketing and Resource Development Coordinator – Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma