KAUKAUNA — Shana Farrell says she found her passion when she became a child advocate with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Fox Cities in Outagamie County.
“I was drawn to CASA because I wanted to help women and children,” she said. “As I watched the news and heard children crying, I knew I had to do something to help. I was looking for volunteer opportunities and I found CASA.”
Volunteers with the nonprofit CASA advocate for abused and neglected children in local courts to achieve placement in safe and permanent homes. The volunteers meet with the children weekly and provide reports monthly to the court. Judges use these reports to determine what is in the best interests of these vulnerable youngsters.
“We are not social workers or police officers. We are not paid to be with them,” Farrell said. “They know we have their backs. They know we are advocates for them and we’ll connect them with those who need to interact with them.” This may include courts and law enforcement, social workers or even medical personnel, she said. In 2017, CASA of the Fox Cities helped 102 children.
Farrell is as much an advocate for CASA the organization as she is for the children she helps. Advocates receive training and CASA is currently accepting applications for the spring training session, which starts March 22 and runs for nine weeks from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays.
“If you have 10 to 12 hours each month, CASA needs you,” Farrell said. Training is held at CASA of the Fox Cities, located within the Abby Bank building, 1500 N. Casaloma Drive in Appleton. For more information, contact Jill at (920) 257-4733 or [email protected]
Farrell has been helping young people for a long time. In addition to raising two daughters, for 21 years she has worked in various positions at Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, currently holding the title of manager of Instructional Projects and TSA (technical skills attainment) Administration. This year, she also became a life coach.
“I feel this is all just a beginning,” she said. She feels a strong pull to help with human trafficking and heroin addiction, and eventually working with prisoners. “These things are on my horizon, but right now my focus is with CASA.”
Her Catholic faith is also an important part of her life.
“There was a time when my main focus was on my own life and needs, which meant taking care of my family and pursuing a rewarding career,” she said. “After a difficult time in my life, the loss of both parents and many changes, I emerged with a deeper faith and a strong need to help others, especially children who suffer.”
Life coaching has taught her that people may need help finding a purpose in life, and a purpose is critical to well-being.
“With a purpose, you have hope,” Farrell said. “I think CASA is just the beginning. I think God is expecting me to help with some of the suffering going on in the world. I want to provide inspiration, hope and a future to people.”
Her involvement in CASA is helping Farrell reach these goals.
“CASA staff does an amazing job training its advocates to be fully prepared in their role,” she said. “What I learned from training was that most people do the best they can with what they know. I realized how blessed and privileged I was, as I heard what some children and families endure.”
Through her volunteer experiences, she also learned about important community services in Outagamie County. “I’ve met many wonderful people with big hearts who help struggling children and families every day,” she said. “Being a CASA advocate has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and an opportunity to fully realize and live my life purpose in the world.
“I give them someone to believe in, someone who cares unconditionally,” added Farrell. “That’s part of the role (of an advocate). We are sort of a super mentor.”
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Shana Farrell
Parish: Holy Cross, Kaukauna
Favorite saint: Teresa of Avila
Words to live by: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” — William Wilberforce[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]