Be an Advocate: Why I Volunteer With CASA

Some of you know that late last year I went through training to become a CASA volunteer. I've had some people ask what exactly CASA is and what I've been doing. So let me explain!

Why I Volunteer with CASA

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. As a CASA volunteer I have a court order to be an advocate for children. Specifically the child I was assigned to, but also in general. CASA volunteers are assigned to cases after completing 40 hours of training. Some cases involve one child, like mine. Some involve many more children (one case another volunteer is currently on involves 8 kids).

So what does being an advocate mean? Well, the child welfare system is a bit of a mess. Sometimes the actual children themselves can get overlooked in the chaos of hearings and meetings and custody battles. Usually that happens because the public defender assigned to the child is so overloaded they barely have time to meet with the child, let alone actually get to know them and their situation in detail. And unless there is a CASA volunteer on the case, that public defender may be the only person sticking up for the best needs of the child.

Unlike those overloaded public defenders, most CASA volunteers only take on one or two cases at a time. We meet the child in person on a fairly regular basis. We talk to the child's biological parents, foster parents, counselors, teachers, and other people in their life. We read the case files. We get to know the ins and the outs of what has happened in this child's life. And before every court hearing, CASA volunteers prepare court reports for the judge to review.

You may have always thought, like I did, that what I just described is what DHS workers do. But actually DHS workers aren't as concerned about the children specifically as they are the family as a whole. And while I'm sure most DHS workers wish they could spend time getting to know all the children they are assigned to, most are like public defenders and have more cases than they can handle. They do the best they can with the time they have, but again, they are focused on the family as a whole, not necessarily what is best for the child.

As a CASA volunteer, my job is to focus solely on the child. I don't care what the foster parents want, what the biological parents want, or what the DHS worker recommends (though all of those wishes and statements are factored in). I only care about what is best for the child I'm working with. Sometimes that will mean being reunified with mom and dad. Sometimes just mom or dad. And sometimes that means having mom and dad's rights terminated and being adopted by other family members or foster parents.

I finished my training in mid-December, and hours after being sworn-in I got a call asking me to review a case. I ended up accepting that case, and was officially assigned in January. The case had been going on for a year, but since I've gotten on board it has progressed quickly. Not necessarily because I'm a part of it now, though that may have helped. Last week I attended a hearing that decided what will be the permanent home for the child. Obviously I can't give any details, but I know that what was decided is absolutely in the best interest of the child. That isn't always how it turns out.

My time with this first case isn't over yet. While major decisions were made last week, there is still more paperwork and details to finalize. But it feels like my first case was as successful as it possibly could have been. Most cases that make it family court will never have a completely and totally happy ending, though it does happen occasionally. Overall though, I think you can only hope for the best.  

So now that my case is nearly over, am I planning on taking on another one? I think so. Most cases don't resolve as quickly as my first one did (at least, it resolved quickly after my involvement), so they are a big commitment.

But I also know that there is a huge need for CASA volunteers. Ideally there would be a volunteer for every case, but that isn't possible right now. In Oklahoma County CASA volunteers represent less than 30% of the abused and neglected children in the system. There aren't enough people willing to step up and be an advocate. And I understand. I mean, you have to commit to 40 hours of training just to be able to volunteer. Most people don't volunteer 40 hours in an entire year. I know, because I didn't for many years!

The need is great, though. And I promise you, it is such important work. You can make a huge difference in a child's life by being a CASA volunteer. If you've ever thought about it, I encourage you to look into it again. If you've read this post and think you might be interested, look into it! I'd be happy to answer any questions you have. Or you can head to the National CASA website to find out more about volunteering.

Previously on Mrs Robbins Sparkles

When I Grow Up: Becoming a Freedom Catalyst

Today I'm happy to introduce you to Lauren Dobey! I "met" Lauren in one of the many Facebook groups I'm in, and I was intrigued by what she does. I mean, have you ever met a freedom catalyst before? 

When I Grow Up: Becoming a Freedom Catalyst || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

As a child, I wanted to be a ­______ when I grew up. I had always wanted to be the next Nancy Drew. If you aren’t familiar, Nancy Drew is a detective book series for girls. I LOVED reading those books and trying to figure out who the criminal was. I even had a little detective kit that I would carry around. I loved all things about mystery and piecing the clues together to solve the crimes.

How close (or far) is your current career from that dream? I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but my childhood interest in detective work influenced my adult desires to help women uncover the parts of themselves that they’ve kept hidden. I am like a detective for your soul!

What is your official job title?  I like to call myself a Freedom Catalyst.

Lauren Dobey, Freedom Catalyst

Ok, now what does that really mean?  I believe Freedom Catalyst paints a picture for the way that I wish for every woman to feel—free. I desire for each and every woman to live a life that sets them free and that is an expression of their true, authentic self. As women we are often told to “follow the rules” and be the “good girl” and I think that really limits our dreams and visions. Our life journeys do not need to follow a linear path and it can even be totally opposite of what we “think” we’re supposed to be doing. Our evolution does not have to look like anyone else’s; it is our unique life to live. The only truly right path is the path that is in perfect alignment for the individual. During client sessions, we look at all areas of their lives to determine what is out of balance, underwhelming, or just plain-old sh*tty and to discover new possibilities for them.The work that I do with my clients has led some of my clients to create a new business, leave an unhealthy relationship or to quit their unfulfilling day job. Ultimately, the results that they receive during our work together affects all areas of their lives. My goal is to help them fall in love with their lives again.

What is a typical day like?  Being an entrepreneur means that my days can vary and can sometimes be very hectic. To give you an idea of an ideal day, it would begin with me waking refreshed and energized without an alarm around 7:00am. After I get out of bed I take my two dogs for a walk. Then I begin my morning practice which consists of a green juice made with organic ingredients, some journaling and some meditation or self-hypnosis. These are the foundations of a grounded and balanced day for me. On most days I try to get to the gym in morning. I begin working at 9am or a little later. My working hours can vary day-to-day. I take client coaching calls, work on my marketing and connect with potential clients. I try to take a break from my office and meet up with a friend for lunch. Since working from home can be really isolating, it's important to me to put an emphasis on personally connecting with friends.Throughout the day I will take breaks almost every hour to do some grounding breathwork or mindfulness meditation. I like to wrap up my workday by 6pm, unless it is one of the two days per week that I take client calls in the evening. Often I have a social event or activity in the evening out in Manhattan. But, if I’m home at night, I wind down by making a healthy dinner- I love to cook! After dinner, I fill my bathtub with tons of bubbles and lavender essential oil to ease myself into further relaxation. I may watch a little bit of TV (I love Scandal!) or read some inspiring books for the remainder of the evening. I have an gratitude practice that I complete before lights out at 10:30pm.

How did you end up in this career?  This career found me. I had been on a path of self-discovery after first a painful divorce and then the illness (and eventual death) of my best friend. I knew that there was more to life that working hard in unfulfilling work. I began to really, truly understand the mind-body connection. I immersed myself in books, seminars and programs that eventually led me to study at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to become a Health Coach. After some time, though, I decided that I wanted to focus on other aspects of a woman’s life, not only their health, and that led me to begin my work as a Freedom Catalyst.

What kind of education or training did you complete for this career?  After IIN I decided that I would love to learn additional, deeper transformational coaching skills so I enrolled in the Transformational Coaching Method program by Holistic MBA. This program gave me a broaded skill set to help me facilitate much deeper change work with my clients.

What advice would you give to someone who wants a similar career?  My advice it to follow your own guiding light and try not to follow what others are doing. If you do, it might feel like you are wearing a pair of pants that are a size too small. Follow your truth, your dreams, your desires. Do not be afraid to change directions, or even quit something that doesn’t feel right, because it doesn’t have to be viewed as failure. You can choose to view it as a learning experience. What you’ve learned will likely serve you in a way that you might not understand at the moment. I deeply believe that life is made up of building blocks of experiences and each one of those blocks is shaping us to be a well-rounded, fully lit up women.

Do you have any other career dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up?  My dream is to continue to share my message with the world in an even more visible way via television or media. I also have the intention to create global events for women to have unique, profound experiences that nudge them step outside of their comfort zones so that they see just how amazing and capable they are.

Any last thoughts or encouragement for others trying to decide what they want to do “when they grow up”?  Just keep taking steps forward, no matter how small the steps or how scary it may feel. You will astonish yourself when you realize what you can accomplish when you set the intention to push yourself slightly outside of your comfort zone. You’ll look back and think “wow, I’m pretty f***ing amazing!”

And that's Lauren! What an awesome career, huh? If you'd like to learn more about her and her services, head to laurendobey.com

Previously on MrsRobbinsSparkles...

Winter Capsule Wardrobe is Moving Out!

Wow, spring is already here you guys! It's time to say good-bye to my winter capsule and hello to spring.

Capsule Wardrobe Planning: Spring is Here

I still haven't figured out the best way to take pictures of my daily outfits, and I never took a picture of every single item. I really did try to take pictures daily, but this is how they usually turned out: 

Daily Pic Fail
Daily Pic Fail

 I'm not a fashion blogger and never will be. And that's ok! 

But here's the rundown. My day-to-day work wardrobe is incredibly boring. Black pants, rotating sweaters, and black heels. Nothing special. However, I do get to wear jeans twice a week to the office. I still have to keep it professional, though. Here's my attempt at an outfit layout:

Gray Knit Cardigan, Jeans, Boots
Red Sparkle Sweater, Jeans, Boots

See, not a fashion blogger.

But basically I lived in skinny jeans, black boots, and some variation of a shirt and sweater! I rotated out a few necklaces and earrings, heels or flats instead of boots, and threw in the occasional dress for a change of pace.

And I loved it! It's pretty much the same items I wore the year before, but it was so much easier to choose what to wear without all the other clothes crowding them out. My closet (well, my side of it anyway) stayed very clean and streamlined, and it was wonderful.

I have to confess that I did buy a few things though. I purchased two pairs of Seven jeans, a pair of Sam Edelman heels, ankle boots, and a North Face jacket. I regret nothing, because I purchased everything except the jacket from ThredUp where I had store credit, and I purchased the jacket off a garage sale group on Facebook. The jacket and the ankle boots are the only things that won't roll over into my spring wardrobe, and the jacket came in super handy in NYC so I consider it money well spent!

This weekend I spent some time rotating out the winter items and bringing in spring. I'll keep a few winter items handy because you never know when those cold temps will make a comeback. But I'm really hoping it's all 70 degrees and sunny from here on out :)

Did you try a capsule wardrobe this winter? Or are you thinking about trying one this spring? Tell me all about it!

Previously on Mrs Robbins Sparkles...

Must-See TV in NYC

I still haven't caught up on sleep...or work, or blogging! I have several posts in draft mode, but they aren't ready yet. Instead I'm talking about some of the super touristy things we did while in NYC. Specifically, the must-see TV spots we visited!

Last Sunday James and I had plans to meet up with a friend of mine near Union Square, so I decided we had to wander around Greenwich Village and visit a couple must-see sights. 

The Friends Building || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

The Friends building was an absolute must for me! I spent most of my freshman year of college watching Friends. My roommate and I owned all ten seasons on DVD and just played them on a loop. So I obviously had to make a stop here.

Sex and the City Stoop || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

And then it turned out Carrie Bradshaw's stoop was right around the corner! Apparently a lot of people visit, so there was a sign up.  And there was some construction related trash right next to the stoop, but we made it work!

How I Met Your Mother Bar || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

Finally, we went to McGee's, the bar that inspired MacLaren's Pub on How I Met Your Mother. We meant to go on Monday night, but we didn't make it until Tuesday morning. In case you forgot, Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day. A pretty big deal in the Irish pub world! We got there right when they opened at 11, and I was disappointed to find out they weren't serving their HIMYM themed drinks. I'd already decided what I wanted to drink - A Pineapple Incident. (They have a Robbin Sparkles drink, but it is Crown and Apple Pucker and sounded nasty!)

James and I at McGees || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

Instead James and I had two very expensive Bud Lights. We hung around long enough to finish our drinks, and then we left. I'm sure the place could be a lot of fun on a normal day, but they were definitely preparing for the St. Paddy's Day craziness. 

There were other TV related sights I wanted to see, but these were the three that were must see for me! I'll be back with lots more about the NYC trip soon :)

 Previously on Mrs Robbins Sparkles...

When I Grow Up: Owner and Artist Behind Blome's Paperie

I came across Sarah Blome in a Facebook group the other day. She mentioned that she made paper flowers for large backdrops and I was intrigued! So I reached out to her to find out more. Without further ado, allow me introduce you to Sarah of Blome's Paperie.

Sarah Blome, Owner and Artist of Blome's Paperie || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

As a child, I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.

How close (or far) is your current career from that dream? Pretty far? I did write my own contracts but it's pretty much the opposite side of the spectrum.

What is your official job title? Small Business Owner/ Entrepreneur/ Artist

Ok, now what does that really mean? I have no idea lol. It means I spend a lot of time as an artist making paper flowers, part of my time as an engineer figuring out how to hang and ship paper flowers, part of my time as a website builder, part of my time responding to emails, and the rest of the time trying to be more organized so I can do everything better.

Gorgeous Paper Flower Back Drop || MrsRobbinsSparkles

What is a typical day like? I generally make flowers in the morning and respond to my emails at night, every once and a while I will take a day off to work on the website and I am trying to start up a blog. I've had to make a rule that I only reply to emails once a day or else I get sucked into the computer for half the day and hardly get any flowers done. On weekend I tend to pick up a uhaul at 10:00 in the morning, then spend 1 to 1&1/2 hours packing the uhaul up for an event then drive there, set up, drive home and hang out with my husband until midnight, then drive back and tear down. I tend to try and take Sundays off, but it usually turns into my catch up on emails day.

Look at those gorgeous paper flowers || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

How did you end up in this career? I started by making flowers for my own wedding and fell in love with it, I love the creativity it allows me to have, and getting to dream up not only new flowers but installations and designs for brides. I honestly got tarted by building my own website and filling a niche no one else did. Large wedding backdrop rentals. I of course also try and make my flowers unique and spend a lot of time on each piece. I take the time to hand paint almost every flower, then some flowers get the special treatment of a hint of glitter, accent paper or some other intricate detail that gives your paper flower backdrop that little bit of extra oomph. This allows my flowers to shimmer and shine when light is directed towards them. I also don't make all my flowers out of the same stock of white paper. You would never buy an arrangement where every single flower was the same flat white with no depth or subtle shift between flowers. and I tried to take that lesson into my art, and so my flowers are made of all types and textures of papers, all in a very subtle range of colors to give our backdrops a depth that you won’t find anywhere else. 

Paper Flower Back Drop || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

What kind of education or training did you complete for this career? That would be a big fat goose egg. All my flowers, and the arranging of them is completely self taught. I did major in Business with a concentration in marketing and that has given me a lot of help is the business side of the business. I actually work with my mom, and she has always been extremely artistic in all facets, where I am pretty good at just this one. Having her encourage me and help me with designs is a huge blessing.

Pretty Paper Flowers || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

What advice would you give to someone who wants a similar career? My big motto now is if Keane could do it why can't I? It's all about finding a dream and following it, my mom said to always leave doors open but don't let it halt your path, so I am just heading forward and seeing what happens. I would also say that it is surprising how much of artistry is actually founded on business.

Paper Flowers at a wedding || MrsRobbinsSparkles.com

Any last thoughts or encouragement for others trying to decide what they want to do “when they grow up”? Don't let "I can't" or "I don't know how" hold you back, there is no reason you can't start small in then grow. And who knows what your path will develop into.

Thank you again, Sarah, for being a part of this series! If you want to find out more about Sarah and what she does, head over to BlomesPaperie.com.

Previously on Mrs Robbins Sparkles...