HERO CENTRAL: CASA DC Helps Foster Care Children Thrive | News
WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) --- "It meant a lot to me," said Shumeka Moore as she tears up.
Moore, 22, gets emotional talking about her relationship with her Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Moore was in foster care for four and a half years. During that time she received guidance from Kristal Wortham, her CASA volunteer.
"It has been such a transformation. The person that she is now. I wish I could show you a video clip of what she was when we first met. She was so quiet," said Wortham about Moore's growing confidence.
The District has over 1,400 open cases of child neglect and abuse on any given day. Children facing abuse move through the DC Family Court system. To maximize the welfare of these children, CASA's represent the children in court.
"There's actually a person there that can care for you, if you may not have that loving or nurturing or caring relationship with your foster parents or someone else in your independent living home or group home or where ever you are," Moore explained.
Through CASA DC, Kristal Wortham got trained and certified to represent Moore in the District's family court system. Wortham says being a CASA volunteer was a "perfect blend" of doing meaningful work related to law.
"The CASA volunteer only has one child so that allows the volunteer to get a unique insight into the young person, so that way they can be supported and connected to the types of services that they need," said Richard Harris, Executive Director of CASA DC.
Wortham gradually developed a strong bond with Moore, who was navigating her life as a young mother earning her college degree on a scholarship.
"And Ms. Kristal was there with me every step of the way. I was stressed out, I could call her, talk to her. [It] didn't matter if it was 2 o'clock in the morning."
Moore says she always wanted to work in the criminal justice system. But she wasn't always sure she would be able to attend college.
"Having CASA and having Ms. Kristal with me kind of helped push me further."
Starting the CASA relationship was tough for Moore. But Wortham would not give up trying to reach out. The CASA volunteer was a professional working parent who had also been a young mother.
"She definitely sounded reluctant and I was able to just encourage her to just have the first meeting. 'Let's have that meeting and see if you're still interested,'" said Wortham.
After the ice was broken, the two ladies established a connection that continues to thrive.
"I didn't really think that I was able to develop a life-long connection with her. But I didn't want her to leave once I left foster care so I chose to still keep a connection with her," said Moore.
To celebrate Moore's college graduation in Winter, 2012, Wortham booked a horseback riding and wine tasting day in Virginia.
"It was absolutely wonderful. Just very, very nice," said Wortham.
Moore has a job at a non-profit organization. Meanwhile she is actively looking be hired in the criminal justice field. She also plans to be a CASA volunteer.
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a grant to CASA DC.
Written/Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 & WUSA9.com