When I re-launched Spoonful of Jordan, it was my desire to make this space one of community. I love linking arms with other women and cheering them on in using their gifts to change their communities. It’s also hugely important to me that you read things from different perspectives and experiences, so having a monthly guest on this blog will achieve that, and I’m so excited to introduce you to my first guest and dear friend here at SOJ, Sarah Damoff.
Sarah lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children. Following her own tumultuous childhood, Sarah has spent the last 15 years working in many roles with children who have trauma backgrounds.
So, without further ado, read her story and be encouraged that no matter what season you are in, there is no offering too small.
“Can you take more kids?” We had just finished fostering a baby. Our answer to the social worker was a word that broke our hearts: “no.” Due to many circumstances, we were utterly depleted. It was humbling, if not humiliating, to acknowledge the limit of our capacities.
With three young children, I felt the tension of parenthood. I did not want to “cop out” or “lose myself:” the passions, burdens, gifts, and skills that I have to offer the broader community. But I also wanted to sincerely and sacrificially invest in the children in my home while they were young.
There is plenty of judgment out there about moms working at home versus moms working outside the home. I didn’t need that. I began to see that we have a more holistic vocation which encompasses both realms to varying degrees, that we need each other, and that even our small offerings can reap significant returns.
Notice that when the young boy offered his fish and bread loaves to Jesus in Matthew 14: 13-21, his offerings were not refused. Jesus did not say, “Ha. This is too small. What good can this ever do?” Nor did He say, “Oh, my boy, you are too small and of modest means that I could never take this sacrifice from you.” Jesus accepts the offering for what it is, and He multiplies it!
How sad that our society pits moms against each other based on the type and size of our offering instead of realizing that this judgment and compartmentalizing is not necessary or helpful.
We realized that our family must assess and decide who we wanted to be and then shape our lives, family values, and vocations around those convictions. Somewhere along the way, my husband and I wrote down individual and family mission and vision statements. This has been a helpful centering point to come back to and discern whether our resources are being poured out the way we believe they should be.
As I considered the specifics of my vocational options after our foster experience, a waterfall of grace cascaded over me with the deep, inner understanding that there isn’t a right, one-size-fits-all answer! There are vastly different seasons, different callings, different members of the one body of Christ. With freedom from the weight of pressure and judgment, I found an option that would work for me personally, in my current season of life, in accordance with my priorities. I decided to pursue 30 hours of initial training to become a CASA.
My husband worked with primarily Spanish-speaking co-workers at the time, so when he told them that his wife was becoming a CASA, they side-eyed him and responded with, “Uh, your wife is becoming a house?”
Nope. I didn’t become a house. I became a Court-Appointed Special Advocate. A CASA is a trained volunteer who is assigned to the case of a child or children who have just entered the foster care system. We have access to everything related to the case and investigate the holistic well-being of the child. Then we show up in court alongside the social worker and attorney in order to give our assessments and recommendations to the judge and other authorities involved.
The CASA organization is now well established in most of the country, funded partially by the government and partially through fund-raising. It was founded about 50 years ago by a family court judge in Seattle who was sick with anxiety and stomachaches because he felt that he didn’t have enough information to decide when and if children should go back to home environments that had previously been unsafe.
The CASA is the only unpaid voice in the courtroom that is focused solely on the well-being of the child. Social workers and attorneys have enormous caseloads and they also have other things on their case agenda, like working for the parents. I have been surprised to find that my recommendations are often given highest priority because I know the case and child best.
I’m doing this work in Dallas, which is the oldest CASA program in Texas. We still only have enough volunteers to assign CASAs to about 70-75% of cases. The goal is 100%.
Tragically, there was a case where a child had so many different social workers and nobody consistently advocating for him, that the fact he was on life-sustaining medication fell through the cracks. The child died and, upon hearing this, the judge emotionally exclaimed, “This would never have happened if he had a CASA! Get me a CASA on every case!!!”
The foster parents are always shocked to find out that most CASAs have other full-time jobs and do this as a volunteer position. It still shocks me sometimes too, how much authority and influence I’m entrusted with at…get ready for it…approximately 10 hours per month. Not every case is the same, and not every month is the same. But this role is designed to be accessible for busy people!
Each month, I visit the children on my case, report to my supervisor and other professionals on the case, check in with people such as doctors and teachers working with the children, remain available for communication with foster parents, and listen to a podcast or attend a meeting for continuing education. Every three months, I prepare paperwork and go to court. Almost all of this except court I can do on my own time. After each year-long case, I tell my supervisor if I would like to take another case.
This opportunity has been manageable and meaningful. I have been able to honor my current life season while still working with and for this demographic of children. There are many ways to serve and support foster children and families, even when you aren’t in a season where you can take them into your home. CASA is just one of those ways.
Most CASA offices host an informational meeting where you can get your questions answered before committing. Then, the next step would be the initial 30-hour training. I was told that this is the biggest time commitment, which has absolutely been true. If you can make a way to complete initial training, then you can definitely handle the commitment. For us, it was a coordination dance. It was not convenient. However, for the ten evenings of training, we decided inconvenience was worthwhile. Each family member had to do their part to make it happen, and it was good for our kids to see us do something that wasn’t just super fun or comfortable in order to meet the goal of mommy serving the foster care community.
It is good for our family to ask questions like, “Should we sign up for one more extra-curricular activity when we already have so much opportunity and privilege, or should we maybe keep this one afternoon open so that we can advocate for children who have next to nothing?” We try to remember that, in addition to our responsibility to the children in our home, we also have a real, collective, human responsibility to the children in need around us.
The opportunity to work as a CASA has been good for me, good for the children I serve, and good for my children. While my children are not allowed to interact with the children on my cases, they can pray generally for this investment while being reminded that mom’s world doesn’t entirely revolve around them and that there are wonderful children around us who have very little. My kids love that I do this, and they frequently delight to send cards and small gifts with me to give away.
May you have abounding peace, wisdom, grace, and freedom as you discern the details of your own vocation in whatever season you find yourself. God does not frown upon your offering, but rather receives, multiplies, and uses it to His glory! Neither you nor your offering are too small. There is room to give, not out of compulsion but out of cheer. The kingdom of heaven has always been about small people, small seeds, small offerings in faith to a big God. So, what is it that you have to offer?
To find more info about CASA, go to the CASA website and find your county.
About Sarah: Sarah Damoff was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex of Texas. She is a mix of Puerto Rican, Native American, Irish, and English. She grew up with a single, blind mother who passed away suddenly when Sarah was a teen. Sarah became a Christian at the age of 17 and an Anglican ten years later. She earned a BS in Development and Family Studies from the University of North Texas. She has been a foster parent, Children’s Minister, teacher in North India, Educational Counselor at a Residential Treatment Center, professional actress, doula, and neighbor in a refugee community. She is currently a wife, mother of three, freelance writer, and Dallas Court-Appointed Special Advocate. To contact Sarah, email her at: