When Pat Hoffman was a child, her mother worked as the cashier in Pat’s school cafeteria. Pat distinctly remembers that when certain children got to the front of the line and approached the cash register, her mom would discreetly send them through. The children were on the free lunch program but her mother wanted to preserve their dignity. This lesson in compassion stuck with Pat and led her to pursue a variety of volunteer experiences over the years, particularly those involving children.
Fast forward to 2011. Pat saw an ad about CASA in the local newspaper and has been a CASA volunteer ever since. Over the past eight years, Pat has served as an advocate on seven cases, two of which she’s still active on. In 2012, Pat was assigned to advocate for a nine-year-old girl, who is now 17. Over the course of those seven years, the girl has lived in a staggering twelve placements. To say that Pat has been able to bring some much-needed stability to this girl’s life is an understatement. Pat is the person she consistently turns to when she needs help, whether it is settling into a new group home and understanding the rules, managing her emotions, or just having someone to talk to. Recently, Pat has started to advocate for services that will prepare the teenager for independent living when she ages out of foster care next year.
Pat knows her ability to sustain a commitment over the long haul is one of her greatest strengths as a volunteer. It is what has allowed her to watch this young woman grow up, which Pat cites as one of her most rewarding experiences as a CASA volunteer. Another was last November’s Adoption Day, when she got to witness the adoption of two of her CASA children in the Passaic County Courthouse.
Pat will be the first to tell you that volunteering as a CASA doesn’t come with a guarantee that the work will end up “tied in a bow after eighteen months.”
“It is a commitment,” she says, “but not one that is overwhelming. I wish more people would do it.”