By Erica Fischer-Kaslander, Executive Director
One day recently I was moving items stored in one of the many containers of mementos and memories from childhood, high school, and college which I have saved. Out of nowhere, a very familiar necklace fell on the floor to my feet. Immediately I caught my breath and had to wonder, where did a necklace come from out of a trunk full of old sweatshirts, plaques, and photographs?
Weathered and worn, the silver heart charm on a chain isn’t valuable in a monetary sense but the memories attached to it are priceless to me. I remember looking for it about 10-12 years ago and after turning every practical location upside down, I wrote off finding the necklace. It would have to live on as a memento from my distant past, something which would fade away along with the memories. Now, to realize it had been hiding in the depths of my trunk for all that time, only to show up at just the right moment in life, gave me a moment of reflection. Finding this necklace last week was a bittersweet reminder of the innocence of childhood, the fragility of our memories, the strength of friendship, and what should be.
I wore my necklace all week at the CASA office as I revisited my own memories and worked on the case of one long-term CASA youth, Sherry.
I met Sherry five years ago when she entered foster care at age 11 due to her mother’s severe abuse. I couldn’t help but think she will never even have the faint hope of rediscovering a lost gift full of memories from a cherished friend like I did this week. Since entering foster care, Sherry has lived in 15 different places and attended 5 different schools. She has lived in 3 places in the last month alone. At age 16, she is roughly the same age that I was when I made the wonderful memories I have linked to that necklace. However, instead of making unforgettable memories, Sherry is living day-to-day to survive in foster care and hoping to live long enough in one place to enroll in school. Having a close supportive group of friends to create those memories with is the farthest thing from Sherry’s imagination. Every time Sherry has moved, her items have either gone into storage here at the CASA office or often get lost. Keeping something as small as a necklace over many years would be a miracle.
Even though she may not have mementos like my necklace as an adult and making friends like many teenagers have been difficult, there is one thing that has stood out from Sherry’s story- her CASA volunteer. For over 5 years, her CASA volunteer Pat has stood by her side through every placement and school. The challenges which have prevented her from reaching a safe and permanent home have not been easy and the road has not been smooth. However, just like my best friend from childhood who gifted me that heart, Pat continues to be reliable and have the steadfast endurance despite the bumps the road.
I did not set out to make a comparison between the two, but the similarities are striking. Though the precious metal of my heart necklace has shown wear and developed character from its age, it still remains strong- just as Pat’s advocacy does each day for Sherry. Just has as I rediscovered my necklace 10 years after thinking I had lost it, only to be reminded of a well-worn but treasured friendship, hopefully, Sherry will similarly reconnect with Pat in the future and recognize that despite the struggles, the strength of Pat’s advocacy remained strong.