Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A call for child advocates

Tara Beckman clearly remembers the first time she met Jeremiah, a 13-year-old boy who at the time lived in a group home in San Francisco.

"I always find myself smiling when I tell people about this boy," said Beckman, 32, who volunteers for a program that provides one-on-one court advocacy to abused, neglected and abandoned children. "He has an infectious smile and such endearing eyes."

Beckman recalls her first conversation with Jeremiah, which took place a year ago. He wanted to visit his little brother, Jesse, whom he hadn't seen in several months, as well as his adoptive mother who could no longer care for him.

"I was able to arrange a court-approved monthly visitation with his family," she said.

After returning to pick up Jeremiah from his first visit with his brother, Beckman said she felt "a sense of sadness" behind her. She turned to see tears streaming down little Jesse's face. He was afraid his older brother would never come back.

"I explained that Jeremiah would be coming back," she said, as the older boy went to hug his little brother.

"Bro, don't worry," Jeremiah is reported to have said, "Tara will bring me back next month."

Called CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, the nonprofit organization currently serves 91 of the approximately 2,300 foster children in Alameda County. Children are referred to the program by the courts, social workers and attorneys.

"We currently have 81 children on our wait list," Beckman said. "We just need more people to volunteer."

A volunteer herself for five years, Beckman is currently an advocate for three teenagers, including Jeremiah.

She recalled another visit between Jeremiah and Jesse, when she drove the boys to go hiking. On the way to the park, Jeremiah was sitting in the front seat and his brother in the back.

"When I pulled over to get the boys a cinnamon roll," she said, "Jeremiah asked if he could sit in back with his brother."

Beckman will never forget looking in her rear view mirror to see the frosting on their faces and fingers. "At that moment, the frosting on my seats didn't matter," she said. "What mattered was giving these two boys the precious gift of being together to laugh and be excited and just be brothers."

Today Beckman continues to mentor and advocate for Jeremiah, who in the last four months has lived in five different group homes. She encourages anyone interested in making a difference in the life of a child to consider CASA. Volunteers are asked to make a one-year commitment and spend 15-20 hours per month on the child's case.

To learn more about CASA, visit www.casaofalamedacounty.org. Potential volunteers may contact Di Roberts at (510) 618-1950 or email her at diroberts@acgov.org.

1 comment:

she said...

beautiful people ~ beautiful story

it's great to see the work of non-profits recognized and celebrated

and this is perfect.. to see the very caring/personalized service tara is providing for this young man; these brothers

may this story reach all the write people, for all the write reasons

and help make 2009 a happy new year for more children and families

love, ~s.