Born in Russia, Natalie moved to the U.S. with her family in 1992. Natalie currently works as a business analyst for T. Rowe Price Investment Management. Before becoming a CASA, Natalie volunteered with various organizations through her job. She says that her company does a great job of organizing and encouraging their employees to participate in volunteer events. Natalie gave her time by serving food at My Daily Bread, helping out on a local farm, cleaning an urban nature system in Baltimore, and volunteering with Art with a Heart.
Natalie discovered CASA through her daughter, Lucy. Lucy became a CASA when she was 21, just as she was finishing up college. Having always loved children and older people, volunteering with CASA and the Alzheimer’s Association was perfect for Lucy. Soon after being sworn in as a CASA, Lucy was assigned her first case. Natalie remembers hearing about the challenges and happy moments that Lucy encountered as a CASA. She saw that, even though Lucy and her CASA kid were fairly close in age, Lucy had a lot of wisdom and empathy to give. One particular story that has stayed with Natalie was when Lucy was able to help her CASA kid get a job. Natalie recalls Lucy being extremely proud of and happy for her CASA kid, as he was hired on the spot. Natalie watched Lucy’s journey for the 9 years that she was this child’s CASA. “I was kind of a bystander in all of this,” Natalie says. But, soon enough, Natalie became a great participant in CASA.
“When [the children] moved away, my husband and I became empty-nesters”. Natalie wanted something to do and to help with, and CASA immediately came to mind. Natalie was hesitant about becoming a CASA, as she was worried about her schedule and the time commitment of being a CASA. “How would I be able to fit this into my full-time job schedule?” she thought. However, “[CASA] assured me that I would be able to do it. So, I went to the training classes and was sworn in about 4 years ago”. Sure enough, Natalie was able to balance her job and her CASA duties, as she has now been with her CASA kid for 4 years.
At first, Natalie was intimidated about meeting her CASA kid after reading the child’s case. “He had a hard childhood, and I didn’t know how or if I could help.” Being a CASA is not always easy. Natalie and her CASA kid have faced challenges over the past few years, but she has found that she was and is able to constantly be there and support him. Natalie recalls that once “My kid was talking to another and saying ‘my CASA did this and that’, and the other kid said, ‘How can I get a CASA?'” It’s a funny story, but it shows just how much foster children need and want someone there to support them. Natalie believes that, “The most important thing for the CASA is to be there for the kids”, and she’s right. There are always going to be challenges that foster children will have to face, but a CASA can make a huge difference in those challenges by being a source of support.
From her years of being a CASA, Natalie has learned a lot more about social services, what they do, and the wealth and benefits that are provided to children in poor situations. “My CASA kid’s foster parents could not be nicer. They are so helpful and supportive. The situation that I observed was very stable and structured, which played a positive role. There is a lot more that can be done, but the state is doing a good job with what they have”. Natalie also mentioned how much she has seen CASA of Baltimore County grow. “CASA constantly has training courses, and the classes are getting bigger and bigger, and bigger. When I was there, there were very few people”. Natalie believes that we could grow even bigger and reach even more foster children in Baltimore County if people realized that being a CASA is a very rewarding and achievable way to help. “Many people do not know about CASA. And we need more people to know, because people think, ‘Who am I to help, and what to I have to offer?’ But then you can realize everyone has something to offer. Even if you have a full-time job. It’s doable”.
Thank you, Natalie, for your amazing dedication and determination to help others!