Transformative Advocacy: A CASA Volunteer's Journey with Tony Stark

Embarking on the journey of a Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer is a profound commitment. For one individual, the adventure with Tony Stark unfolded over two impactful years. Tony, not his real name but an Iron Man in his own right, faced unimaginable challenges, and this volunteer became his advocate, mentor, and friend.

Bob Falconi’s volunteer path to CASA began four years ago, sparked by a colleague's recommendation. What started as a year-long commitment evolved into a long-term dedication. Two years ago, Bob transitioned to a CASA Team Leader role, humbly acknowledging the collective awesomeness of all CASA volunteers. 

Bob took on Tony's case when he was 15, navigating through six foster placements. The story of Tony's escape from abuse by the adoptive father, covering 30 miles on foot, and ending up in a youth shelter, is a testament to resilience. Bob, motivated by a desire to replicate the positive experiences of his previous CASA case and his fellow CASA volunteers in the sibling group, came out of a brief retirement to advocate for Tony.

The biggest challenge became the greatest triumph when Bob took on educational rights for Tony since Tony was at risk for not graduating high school, mostly out of untapped potential. It was a long road, but the journey led to Tony singing the national anthem at his high school graduation, marking a significant win in their shared story. Bob said it was one of the greatest nights of his life.

Maintaining a positive relationship with Tony involved weekly community interactions, often centered around food and car rides that helped fuel conversation, with Tony doing all the navigation. Bob allowed Tony space, enabling him to make decisions and learn from them. The connection strengthened, and Bob witnessed Tony's personal growth.

The journey celebrated a significant milestone when Tony earned his high school diploma, defying the odds for many youths in foster care. As Tony transitions to college, Bob reflects on the impact of his advocacy, emphasizing the slow, impactful approach, supporting Tony's self-efficacy and navigating challenges. The belief in Tony's potential proves powerful in influencing positive moments and accomplishments.

Bob describes the CASA experience, when going well, as an amazing feeling. The highs and lows of being a CASA volunteer are part of a rewarding, transformative journey. Flexibility, good listening skills, realistic expectations, and collaboration are key attributes. The capacity to work with professionals involved in the case, from social workers to teachers and school administrators, to mental health professionals, lawyers, and the court, coupled with an open mind, positively impacts the role.

Upon Tony's 18th birthday, Bob remained his CASA volunteer and plans to stay connected with Tony, acknowledging the unique dynamics of working with a non-minor dependent. The CASA relationship evolved into a voluntary one, with both deciding its continuation every six months.

Beyond the official CASA appointment, Bob envisions a lasting friendship with Tony, offering ongoing support in life's journey. 

Bob describes being a CASA volunteer as an awesome experience, one of the most rewarding in a person's life. He is grateful for the transformative journey and looks forward to future chapters as a friend and supporter in Tony's life.

The advice to those considering becoming a CASA volunteer is simple: dive in. It's an incredible opportunity to make a difference in a child or youth's life during a difficult time.

Beyond his impactful advocacy, Bob contributes significantly to CASA's mission through financial support.

CASA extends heartfelt gratitude to Bob for his multifaceted contributions, embodying the spirit of compassion and dedication that defines the heart of our organization.