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CASA Stories: Summer and Sharon

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

From left to right: Advocacy Specialist; Aimee Kintzel, CASA; Sharon Krull, Kevin Smithberger, Susan Smithberger, Judge Karin McGrath. In the front: Summer Smithberger

Written by CASA Sharon Krull:

I finished classes for CASA and was assigned a child to advocate for. I was told she was 5 years old and about some of the traumas she had endured.  I took the information folder home and started worrying and wondering if I could fight back my shyness and social anxiety enough to help this child.  I was expecting a child whose spirit had been broken, a child that was “different.” I went to the home of her kinship placement and the home was not in the best condition. Then I met Summer.  She was bright-eyed and adorable. She was so “normal.” We shared crayons and colored some pages. She stayed in the lines.

The next meeting was at her school. She was pretty wound up and full of gossip about her biological family.  It was obvious her foster mother was well connected to the family and filtered nothing. 

Within weeks, Summer was off to another home. This home was very loving. They had two adopted girls Summer’s age and a foster child 3 years older they were in the process of adopting.  Summer fell in love with her new mom, and her foster mother loved her. Unfortunately, Summer could not get along with her “sisters” and there was lot of chaos. She craved to have the mom’s love all to herself.  Eventually the mom had to do what was best for the children she had already adopted. 

Summer was then moved to another home. Her new foster mother was a not a good fit for Summer. The foster mother was not prepared to handle her. It was difficult because I think Summer felt she was to blame, but she is just a child trying to cope with things that could break any adult. 

Summer was moved again, this time her foster mother was a young single woman. Summer was her first foster child. The foster mother’s heart was in the right place, and she and Summer bonded, but it was not a good fit for adoption, and that was what Summer needed. 

Summer was then placed with the Smithberger’s. The Smithberger’s were willing to give Summer the things she desperately needed: acceptance, love, and stability.

I was smitten with Summer the first time I met her.  I wish I could have adopted her.  I have seen her monthly for 3 ½ years.  We do crafts, I read to her, I ask her about her friends, her teacher, just chit chat.  Nothing important, as I was taught in CASA training, I’m not a therapist, I don’t try to deal with her traumas.  I have just shown up, month after month, wherever she lives.  I am always genuinely happy to see her, and make sure she knows it. I let her do the crafts her own way. Sometimes her coloring is in the lines, sometimes it is scribble.  It doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy her company.  She is witty and precocious. She makes my day.

When I explained CASA to a friend, I told her I visit a child monthly, I log a short description of the visit. I write a report for court hearings and the reports are a real pain. I go to the hearings and update the judge about the child and that is challenging to me.  She asked, “And this is all volunteer work? You get paid nothing?”  That is true.  But it also true that Summer has given me much more than money. She fills my heart with hope. 

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