West Roxbury's Anne Harvey Kilburn is known in the community for helping people. She led the launch of the West Roxbury chapter of the Neighbor Brigade. She recently got a new position and she talked about it with Patch.
Patch: You recently became a court-appointed special advocate or CASA for an organization called Boston CASA - what court appointed you?
Kilburn: I was appointed by the Suffolk County Juvenile Court
Patch: And what do you do as a CASA?
Kilburn: I act as a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) for abused and/or neglected children who are in DCF (Department for Children and Families) custody and usually in a foster home. It's important to note that CASAs work on only one case at a time. I get to know the children by talking with everyone in their lives: the child, parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others and then use the information to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them. For many abused children in the overburdened legal and social services systems the CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence in their lives.
Patch: Why did you want to do this job? Is it paid?
Kilburn: A few years back I read a memoir by a young woman, Liz Murray, who was featured in a documentary called, "Homeless to Harvard." In her book, Breaking Night, she refers to a CASA who was a steady prescence in her life after she became homeless. Her CASA in New York City stood by her and encouraged her through some really difficult times. Her story left a huge impression on me. I knew I could do the work and that it would be really satisfying. It is a volunteer position.
Patch: What kind of background do you have that relates to this work?
Kilburn: You don't need a particular background. CASAs come from all walks of life. You do need to care about children and have common sense. You go through about 30 hours of training and have ongoing support from a program director or other professional who has a social work or legal background. You do have to pass a background check and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (about a year and a half on average). There are CASA programs throughout the country and some folks have been doing this work for over 20 years.
Patch: You're looking to spread the word through talking to state legislators? And you spoke with state Rep. Ed Coppinger recently - how did that go?
Kilburn: Yes, Boston CASA is very interested in getting more exposure. For years the program was funded through the Probation Department and then about a year ago, Boston CASA was cut from the budget. It is now a fully autonomous 501(C3) non-profit corporation. We do want to spread the word to local state legislators such as Rep. Coppinger, as well as the professionals who work with abused and neglected children.
I contacted Ed Coppinger about a month ago and he responded very quickly. The director of Boston CASA, Charles Lerner, and I met with him recently. He is very interested in the program and encouraged us to contact the other reps in Boston. We are planning a gathering early in 2013, with the goal of gathering all the Boston state reps to talk about this further. Boston CASA deserves and intends to get funding from the state. It's important to note that we held a fundraiser this past September and surpassed the goal, but we need sustainable funding to expand and strengthen the program.