Volunteering with children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma, Maureen Rowley, a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for 22 years, has seen sadness and heartache, but has also seen joy. She’s cheered on parents who battle back and arise victorious from the clutches of drug misuse in order to gain back custody of a beloved child. And she’s seen the miraculous transformation that can take place when a traumatized child is matched with the perfect adoptive family.
“The most rewarding thing about this work is when you see what these kids have gone through and how difficult the situation is, have everything work out, is just fantastic,” says Maureen.
Maureen has learned and grown through her experiences as a CASA and through the educational opportunities provided. “When I first started, I didn’t realize how prevalent drugs were in Concord. I was really surprised. But I understand a lot more now about addiction and how strong a hold it can have on people, to the point where nothing else matters.” Owing to her work as a CASA, Maureen says that she’s more empathetic now than she ever has been. “I’ve learned so much about children and development from all the CASA trainings and the free classes offered to CASAs through Granite State College.”
On top of her work as a CASA, Maureen is a fulltime legal assistant, mother, and grandmother. And while a college degree isn’t required to become a CASA volunteer, Maureen also earned her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science during this time. Almost half of all CASAs work full time. “It is doable if you work full time. I can see how people looking in would think it can take up a huge part of your life, and it does sometimes, but there are so many good things that make it worthwhile to do this work.”
Maureen has seen the value in sometimes just being there for these children during the hardest time in their life. Having a hand in helping a child without a voice come to the point where they are in a much better place from where you found them is something she finds incredibly empowering.
The well-known and loved children’s television host Mr. Rogers advised children to “look for the helpers” in scary and uncertain situations. Maureen would certainly fit that role. “Helping others is really an enrichment to me as I was getting to know all these families. I like being able to help people, that’s the bottom line.”
It’s wonderful to think of all the children and families who are living better lives, all because Maureen chose to help.