Even before he became a CASA volunteer advocate nearly five years ago, Jack Hurley was familiar with the hardships and suffering that some children and youth face. During his career as an attorney and educator in Rochester, NY, many of the students who passed through the doors of the Rochester school district’s Law Academy carried the trauma inflicted upon them by poverty or neglect. Many resided in foster homes, after their own homes were deemed unsafe or lacking in fundamental care and necessities.
Witnessing the plight of these children is what spurred Jack to volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem with CASA of New Hampshire. As Jack sees it, “There are a lot of students, a lot of children, who are in very abusive and neglectful circumstances, and there’s nothing they can do about it. So hopefully the system steps in and tries to do something. As a CASA that’s important to me – to be an advocate for the children.”
Jack is currently on his fourth case as a CASA, having advocated for nine children to date. He has worked with children of different ages, from those currently in Head Start all the way up to teenagers. But no matter the age, the goal is always the same: “That they get into the best possible environment where they can thrive; where the child’s health, medical, and emotional needs are being met. That’s why I’m doing this, that’s the reward.”
While the needs and best interests of the children are his sole focus, experience has taught Jack that the circumstances that cause children to enter the child protection system are often generational. “There are good people who have gone through so much trauma, and much of this happened when they were children,” he explains. “It’s painful to see a mother who herself was abused have her kids taken away from her because she’s never been able to deal with her own trauma.”
Because of this, he aims to help parents understand what’s happening to their children. Jack’s philosophy is that the children’s lives can be improved if their parents’ lives are improved. If parents understand and change what’s happening in their own lives, they will probably be better parents.
“Sometimes families just need a time out, when they are able to look back and gather their resources, and get the support they need so they can get on with their lives as a family. When families do that, things have a good chance of working out and they can get back together again.” He knows. He’s witnessed it firsthand, with most of the cases he’s worked on ending in reunification after the parents took the steps needed to repair what was broken.
Jack has given so much to children in need, but he feels that he has gained a lot in return. He says that his work for CASA has made him a more compassionate person and that it is “intellectually challenging and emotionally challenging in a good way.” “Just seeing the children in an environment that promotes their growth, promotes their wellbeing and happiness is important. That’s why I’m doing it,” he adds.
Jack’s community involvement doesn’t end with his work with CASA. Since retiring to New Hampshire, he serves on the City of Claremont’s Conservation Commission, the Fiske Free Library’s Board of Trustees, and the Springfield (VT) Food Co-op Board of Directors. Jack is also a District Leader for the NH Chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, and is President of the Board of Directors of Twin States Animal Liberation. None of it is work that he gets paid for, but he finds it all deeply rewarding.