STORY BY SARAH MATTES
Adonna Stueckradt sits in the corner of a small, warm living room. A smile lights up her face from ear-to-ear as she reminices about stories of her past.
The clinking of her bracelets is the only sound in the room as she wipes the tears from her eyes while discussing one of her most touching cases.
She pulls out her iPhone and scrolls through pictures upon pictures of the families she has helped and stayed in touch with over the years.
After a 40-hour work week and taking care of her own family, Stueckradt finds six or seven free hours in her schedule and dedicates them to volunteering for the Iowa CASA program.
CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate, is a program that supplies children in the court system from abusive or neglectful families a volunteer who speaks on the child’s behalf in the court proceedings.
Between the lawyers, parents and social workers all involved in the hearings, a CASA is there to be the voice of children who cannot speak for themselves.
CASAs are involved in every aspect of the court hearings. They are in charge of visiting, observing and recording interactions between the child, the parents, friends, school officials, extended family members and anyone apart of the child’s life and involved in the case.
They then present their findings to the judge in charge of the case and can report on any more information that the court may need.
Stueckradt explained that being a CASA is just as rewarding for the volunteers as it is for the children.
She explains that CASA allows kids to start anew and create their own path to follow, not just follow in their family’s footsteps.
Stueckradt has been with the Iowa CASA program for seven years handling over 20 cases. Being an experienced and seasoned CASA, Stueckradt recently became a ‘coach’ for new incoming CASAs. In this role she helps new volunteers with their cases.
“If they need me to go on a visit with them … if they need help writing a report if they have any questions about what would do I do in this situation, what do I say, what are the expectations? I answer all those questions for them.”
Her sense of joy and compassion fills the room as soon as she walks in.
Stueckradt brings a positive attitude toward each of her cases, doing all that she can to give these children a better home and a chance at a happier life.
Regardless of how much sunshine Adonna brings to her cases, a shadow of doubt and regret stays with her after her visits with the kids.
“Ten or 15 times I have left a visit and I had to pull over in a Kum&Go parking lot and cry. I can be strong for them (the families) while I’m there, but then as I tear up now, when I leave it, sometimes especially if there’s still a little angst about the situation it can be difficult.” Working with these families takes a toll on CASA volunteers. Luckily, not all cases have to involve doubt or regret.
“My second case, there was an older boy, 10, and a little girl that was just 11-months old when I started on the case. I was with them for a couple of years … to watch her go from just starting to stand up and start walking to three years old and just a cute little sassy thing (was awesome),” Stueckradt said.
This case touched Stueckradt’s heart the most out of all her cases. “It was a dream case; mom picked herself back up, was able to take her kids back and raise them in a better light and situation.”
Adonna explains that this case reaffirmed her belief in the good work that CASA can do for families and because of it she has gotten more involved to help out more families.