Lori Whetzel is a CASA veteran, having served 37 children on 16 cases since she was first sworn into service in1997. The Chantilly resident understands the needs of children with disabilities from many perspectives: as a parent, a foster parent, and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
In this Q&A, Lori talks about the gratification she receives from taking on the added challenge of advocating for medically fragile children, who are also victims of abuse and neglect.
How I learned about CASA
As a foster parent for a child with disabilities, I was invited to attend a Child Specific Team (CST) meeting. At that meeting, I was very impressed with the CASA volunteer for my foster child; it seemed to me that the volunteer was asking very common sense questions pertaining to the needs of the child, and the ability of the child’s biological mother to meet those needs. I wanted a chance to have that kind of input.
Memorable CASA Moment
So many! When my first CASA child started college (no one else in her family had ever completed high school) and asked me to accompany her and the social worker to tour the campus before she started school; when the adoptive family of the twins involved in one of my cases sends me photographs of the milestones in their lives; when I saw the tremendous progress made by the little guy on one of my current cases once he received proper care; and, when he puts his arms out for me to pick him up because he's learned to trust.
What means the most to you about being a CASA volunteer?
Thirty one years ago, my son was born with Down syndrome. While addressing his medical issues, I learned of the need for foster parents to care for children with disabilities, and I became a foster parent.
My husband and I adopted the last child placed with us; he was a victim of shaken baby syndrome with a number of medical anomalies. In the course of working with children who had a variety of medical issues, I became knowledgeable about pediatric medicine and the special education system. Because of my background, I am assigned as a CASA volunteer to cases involving children with medical needs.
This is what I know best, and I find that the professionals involved in the case are happy to have someone on the team who has the ability to explain tests and medical procedures, and can provide informed input on addressing the child’s needs.
Having been both a foster parent and adoptive parent, as a CASA volunteer I know without a doubt that we really do make a difference. For me, this slogan says it all: “It’s the toughest job you’ll ever love!”
Would you like to become a CASA volunteer? Join us this , 11:00 a.m., at the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna for a one hour information session.