“There’s that awkward first meeting. You meet this kid, you pick him up at home, foster mom says, ‘ok off you go.’ You get this kid in your car and it’s weird; you’re wanting to say all the right things and the kid doesn’t know who you are or what’s going on, other than you’re this person now in their life. But you say, ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me but I’ll tell you what, let’s just go to Chuck E. Cheese, that’s what we’re going to do.’ And all of a sudden, it’s like great, we’re off to the races.”
In the spring of 2019, Dave Numme found himself looking for something to do that would give him some fulfillment, give him a sense of service. That’s when he recalled a former boss of his that spoke highly about his experience as a CASA Volunteer. After a quick Google search, Dave found Child Advocates of Silicon Valley and he was on his way to becoming a CASA.
After completing the CASA pre-service training, Dave took on his first assignment right away; Alex, a 10-year-old boy who deals with anger and trust issues from having experienced physical abuse and emotional trauma. Like most CASA Volunteers, Dave was ready but anxious. With help from his CASA Mentor, Dave chose Chuck E. Cheese as their first visit with one goal in mind, just show up. And that’s exactly what he did, show up, play games and eat pizza.
Dave recalls, “I came away from that first meeting with the realization that, I really didn’t have to do anything other than show up. That’s all I had to do. Show up, pay attention, care and be interested. I’m not there to fix him. I’m not there to solve his problems. I’m not there to be a therapist. Maybe I’ll be his friend, his adult friend. But ultimately, I wanted to build trust.”
The more Dave showed up for Alex, the more they built trust. Trust in one another played an instrumental role in a very important decision for Alex.
Having struggled academically since a young age, Alex was a few grade levels behind when he met Dave. After meeting with Alex’s Child Family Team and school administrators, they devised a plan to get Alex back on track academically. Dave knew the plan would only work if Alex was on-board, if it was his choice.
“What was really necessary was for Alex to agree to the plan,” said Dave. “If he was on board, the desired outcomes were possible. Our trust allowed us to discuss his fears openly, dispel them and make a pact that I would be there to support him.”
It hasn’t been easy but Alex is working hard at improving academically and Dave is right by his side supporting him at every turn. Earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools moved to distance learning, Dave knew Alex would need his own laptop to stay on track academically. Dave contacted his CASA Mentor at Child Advocates and within no time Alex had a new laptop and everything he needed to learn remotely. Pandemic aside, things are going well for Alex. School is hard but he’s working at it and he recently learned that he will soon be reunified with his family. Naturally, Dave doesn’t take credit for any of this, but one thing is certain, the relationship they built benefited them both.
“You know, Child Advocates asks you to spend two hours a week with your child and to try to keep your case until it closes, that’s the commitment they’re looking for, but it pulls you in; I was doing about 40 hours a month. Every time I would spend time with Alex it would turn into a 6-hour, 8-hour adventure. It didn’t have to but it did. And it was great.”
Disclaimer: The story is based on Dave Numme’s experience as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer. Some details about the foster child he serves have been altered in an effort to keep the child’s identity anonymous.