The Power of a CASA: Dijonia's story
After being forced to leave her home at the age of 15, Dijonia felt abandoned. Neither her mother, nor her father wanted custody. She didn’t know what was next. Although she was briefed by a CFSA social worker on what to expect, she felt panicked and unsure of her future.
She was taken to a foster home, but wondered, “How could a stranger protect me, when my own family can’t?” Like many children in foster care, she moved from foster home to foster home, with little notice or information on where she would go next.
At the age of 16, Dijonia became pregnant and lost her pregnancy, all in the same year. The heartbreak from losing her child caused her to lose all interest in activities she used to enjoy. She went from being a star student to not caring about school. She dropped out the following summer.
After being enrolled in military school, Dijonia’s depression became worse, engaging in self-harm before she finally decided to leave school and pursue her GED. With the help of Job Corps, D got her GED on Feb 24, 2017.
With Samaura’s influence, Dijonia found herself in a more stable housing situation and began to advocate for herself, attending court hearings regularly, which she didn’t previously attend.
Although she received her GED, Dijonia still struggled. At the age of 19, D was assigned a CASA volunteer named Samaura. Dijonia already had so many people coming in and out of her life that she wanted nothing to do with Samaura. Dijonia didn’t trust her at first, but after repeated interactions, she came around. When Dijonia was able to express her feelings, wishes, and goals with Samaura, Samaura shared that with the team. Dijonia felt like Samaura understood her. With Samaura’s influence, Dijonia found herself in a more stable housing situation and began to advocate for herself, attending court hearings regularly, which she didn’t previously attend.
Dijonia has aged out of the foster care system, but she keeps in touch with Samaura. She thinks of Samaura as a big sister. She can share her feelings with Samaura and knows that Samaura will give her unbiased advice as big sisters often do. She continues to help Dijonia develop life skills and has even helped Dijonia get her current job!
Today, Dijonia is employed at a local restaurant and interns at the CASA DC office. She is mother to a beautiful boy and is on her way to purchasing her first car! Although Samaura has been instrumental in Dijonia’s life, we know that it is Dijonia’s motivation to succeed that got her to where she is now and we couldn’t be more proud!
Dijonia says that if she can give advice to future CASA volunteers, she would tell them to be open and patient. She says that the foster youth will have trust issues and you will get pushback but being determined and consistent will help you get through to the child.
Dijonia’s story is not unlike that of many youth in the foster care system. Feelings of abandonment, distrust, self-harm, risky behavior and problems with school are all effects of trauma. Our CASA volunteers are specially trained to recognize symptoms of trauma and work with victims of abuse and neglect. If you are interested in learning more about how you can become a CASA, please visit our Volunteer page or email email@example.com.