After a thirty year career as a teacher, many people might look forward to a retirement that didn’t include worrying about children. But not Theresa Waters. This Essex County resident channeled her experience as a teacher into dedicated service as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and over four years has served as an advocate for five children in foster care.
Back when she worked as an elementary teacher, Theresa had a number of students she knew were living in foster care. She grew attached to these children and wondered what happened to them in the years that followed. Being a CASA, Theresa says, has helped change her thinking. Not only does she get to work with children for longer stretches, but she has learned to measure success in new ways, focusing on the long term view rather than short term objectives.
Given her expertise in education, it is no wonder Theresa took particular interest in her CASA children’s academics, encouraging them to do their best and helping to arrange for extra support when needed. She has become particularly close with one child, a 12-year old girl struggling in a residential facility. This girl has no family to visit her, so Theresa knows her weekly visits are extra meaningful. She feels like she has become something akin to a surrogate grandmother to this girl, teaching her both to play chess and what it means to be there unconditionally for someone.
Theresa says her transition from being a teacher to a CASA was an easy one, because teachers are used to volunteering and helping others. “When you see a need, you just step up,” she explained.