When Linda Kinsey retired in 2014, she knew it was time to give back. The business analyst, who had started her career as a high school math teacher, also wanted to bring young people back into her life.
“I have been very fortunate in my upbringing and my relationships, so I wanted to do something to give back,’’ said Kinsey, who lives in Monroe Township with her husband, Alton. “So many people don’t have someone to speak up for them. I wanted to be able to speak up for the children.’’
Becoming a Court-Appointed Special Advocate was the perfect fit. These trained volunteers, known as CASAs, act as the eyes and ears of the court, informing judges about a child’s needs and ensuring they receive the appropriate services while in care – all with the goal of helping a child find a safe, permanent home as soon as possible.
Over the past four years, she has worked on 10 cases, some as an advocate and some as a peer coordinator, helping other CASAs with their cases.
She fondly remembers her first case — a little boy who suffered from multiple disabilities and was non-verbal. She felt she made a difference in his life just by visiting with him.
“He had suffered abuse as a baby and had a lot of physical limitations,’’ remembers Kinsey, who has two grown children, Isaiah, 26, and Megan, 25. “Even though he was non-verbal, he would recognize my voice. I would talk to him, rub his arm, sing the same song every time I went to see him. He would smile at me and I knew I was reaching him.’’
In a case involving three siblings, with the help of CASA’s generous partner, the Scott Hazelcorn Children’s Foundation, Kinsey was able to give the children things they never had – buying a teenager a first bicycle and taking two other children on a trip to New York City to see Radio City’s Christmas Show.
“When a child tells you that now they know someone cares for them, is looking out for them, and they never had that before, that’s so moving,’’ she said. “It means the world.’’
Probably the most important role that CASAs play, she adds, is being a caring adult that a child can count on.
“The best thing about being a CASA is that you are the one consistent person in that child’s life,’’ Kinsey said. “Caseworkers change. Teachers change. Therapists change. Resource parents change. There is always a change. But until that child is reunited with the biological family or adopted, the CASA is the one person who is always here.’’ Kinsey said serving as a CASA has been an enriching experience.
CASA of Middlesex County, where Kinsey volunteers, recently launched Lift Up! A Volunteer Recruitment Campaign to enlist others to join the ranks of caring adults looking out for children in foster care. CASA volunteers receive training and support to do this important work, according to Stephanie Brown, director, CASA of Middlesex County.
A new round of training starts on Oct. 16.