Court appointed advocate builds special bond with child she represented
EDGERTON, Wis. (WMTV) - Rock County court appointed special advocates are crucial to helping children process what can be a tough legal and foster care system.
Ahead of Rock County CASA’s biggest annual fundraiser on Saturday in Janesville, 15-year-old Shyann Bracken shared that her advocate Twila Garza helped her feel safer during a tumultuous time.
Garza’s volunteered as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for three years and helped eight children including Bracken.
Garza said it is a unique volunteer opportunity because she gets to build relationships with the children through activities like scavenger hunts, food tasting events or hanging out at her lake house in Edgerton.
“Every single week we would spend three hours together doing something,” Garza said. “But Shyann was testing me more than anyone. Not trusting at all. It took me months and months and months to win her trust over.”
She understood why it was tough for Bracken to trust her. When the two met, Bracken lived in the foster care system with her siblings because her mother could not take care of them.
Flashforward to now and Garza and Bracken are inseparable. Bracken credits her advocate for consistently showing up during the difficult times.
“Sometimes I don’t answer people but right when she texts me I’m willing to answer because she was there for a really long time,” Bracken said. “I feel like she’s seen what we’ve gone through and she’s been there for us so I feel like she can basically know everything about me.”
Garza said Bracken’s mother followed court orders and eventually was able to re-unify with her children. However, Bracken and Garza still spend time together even though the court case is closed.
Bracken said Garza both said the difficult times were made better because of CASA and Garza has gained confidence.
“The age that I was at, I realized had to do a lot more than most kids know how to their age right now,” Bracken said. “I can’t say I’m ready for anything, but I wouldn’t doubt it.”
Garza plans to continue volunteering with CASA for at least ten more years.
CASA’s fall festival is Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. at the Barn on the Prairie in Janesville. Tickets are available at the door and due to the colder weather, staff recommends people dress warmly.
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