As a wife and mother living in Wilmington, DE in the late 1970’s, Carol Aastad was busy raising two sons and being a “mom.” In the midst of it all, she found time to work on projects through the Junior League. During one of her meetings, Carol heard a presentation about foster children, many of whom are removed from their biological parents because of the adversities they face in the home and placed in foster care. These children often lose any significant sense of permanency in their home life, schooling, or routines. The speaker said that there was an organization called Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), especially designed to support these children. CASA volunteers are each appointed by a judge to watch over and advocate for a particular foster child, making sure he or she doesn’t get lost in legal or social service systems. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.
Carol was moved. “It really caught my attention,” she said. “I always wanted to do something meaningful with children.” But still busy with her own family and career left her no time to pursue it further. She and her husband found other ways to be generous, supporting a number of causes over the years. “I hated letting it go,” Carol remembers, “and, the idea of working with children in this way never left me.” Fast forward to 2008. Carol and her husband Andy had just moved to Willow Valley Communities. She was looking forward to spending time pursuing her passions. As luck would have it, Carol happened to read a newspaper article about a new CASA program starting in Lancaster. She applied and was thrilled to be accepted into the first class.
The training and subsequent work for CASA is intense and quite time-consuming. CASA volunteers must learn everything they can about the children to whom they are assigned, building personal and trusting relationships with them. Volunteers represent and testify in court on behalf of the children, giving the judge their assessment of what decision would be in each child’s best interest. Carol knows how important this role is. I am their voice,” she says. Carol’s passion for helping children doesn’t end at CASA. She also volunteers at Lancaster’s Milagro House, an educationally based program for young mothers which provides housing and supports them in becoming independent in caring for themselves and their children. Carol believes that organizations like CASA and Milagro House help break the cycle of abuse for many families. “I’m honored to be part of that effort and in the lives of these amazing women and children.”