By Adrienne Cox
Parents…We tend to depict them in a field of opposites, bad or good, evil, or here or nowhere. They are like shadow players; some are offstage actors whose words or hugs from afar linger in the mind of the child.
As a CASA, the child I was assigned was Jeron*, who was left by his mother. I could feel his ache and struggled as a mother myself to understand how ‘mom’ had left him and four siblings who could not possibly care for themselves. But though a mom may not be right here, she is wired into a child’s heart and brain. Hearing her voice can spark anger, sadness or inspire a moment of hope. Of course, fathers, too, can be characterized as harsh, good, or suffering on their own.
Family can be a series of fragments at times. I saw true, parental-like love in a collection of Jeron’s cousins or a cherished sibling, or an elderly aunt who stepped into care for the child.
His family gathers in a small church on a quiet D.C. street weekly to sing, shout, mourn and pray. Church consists of a carpeted room with chairs, a piano, microphones and a preacher who is an uncle. One Sunday, I joined the worshippers, and Tray’s aunt gave me a warm hug, thanking me for my efforts and the love shown for this child and others.
The CASA DC experience was a treasure for me. So often in life, rarely do we leap in unknown waters, but when we do, we learn and never forget. The CASA DC staff and the board have been a constant source of inspiration. Their work embodies what is best about this country, lifting others UP and helping children who need us, so they not only thrive but give life its best shot.
I will never stop caring or checking in on Jeron or his family. Jeron matters - as do the siblings and caregivers in his orbit. Unlike a Hercule Poirot story, there sometimes is no tidy solution or neat conclusion. Now that Jeron is grown, I cannot make his life choices, but I care deeply about his pain, past burdens and how his future story takes shape. He WILL ALWAYS know that there is a caring adult in his corner, his former CASA volunteer, who will always be here for him.