By Corey Poole
After taking a job with CASA of Central Louisiana as a Volunteer Recruiter/Trainer Christian Kirkendoll said she’s doing what she’s passionate about, which is helping children.
A mother herself, Christian loves that CASA gives children a voice.
CASA volunteers are Court Appointed Special Advocates who are appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interests of a child in court. CASA volunteers are different because they remain appointed to the child’s case throughout its duration. While the child may have multiple attorneys, social workers, therapists, and foster placement throughout the life of the case, they will have only one CASA volunteer. By being that caring consistent adult, CASA volunteers have been the certainty in uncertain times for these children.
However, Christian was originally on a different career path before she found CASA. At a young age she assisted with the care of her grandfather while he battled cancer. This experience opened Christian’s eyes to the health care industry, specifically caring for the elderly.
She became a CNA and switched gears several years later decided to to be a stay at home mom. This happened after living in Texas, meeting na marrying her husband Tyler Brown, of Natchitoches, and moving back to the City of Lights with him around 9 years ago.
Christian now plans to go back to school to earn a degree in social work. She wants to continue working with children, perhaps in a DCFS office or the school system, but Christian is certain that she’ll always be involved with CASA, because it’s become her passion.
“Kids don’t do anything to deserve what they sometimes go through in life,” said Christian. “This line of work has been a big adjustment for me. As a mom you want to stand up for them all.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and CASA has 25-30 volunteers in Natchitoches, Red River, and Sabine Parishes who currently advocate for around 50 children, serving over 100 annually.
It can be hard work and it’s not something CASA employees and advocates can go home and talk to their families about. Instead, the employees and advocates become family and a source of support as they talk to one another.
Christian is always challenged with getting volunteers and retaining them because people can get burnt out. Volunteers build connections with the children they’re assigned to, hear what they go through, and still have to remain unbiased when it comes time to go to court.
The rewarding side of being involved in CASA is when foster families brag about volunteers who have made a difference in the life of a child.
“That’s what keeps a lot of volunteers in it,” explained Christian. “It’s the difference they can make. While some kids come back to us, some stay with their family once a resolution has been reached and that’s worth all the work we put in.”
Christian said she uses quiet drives to process and work the emotions from the day through her system, so she can leave it all on the doorstep when she gets home.
A big homebody, Christian said CASA has gotten her out of her shell and more involved with the community. In her spare time she enjoys traveling with her family, cuddling with her pets (her husband won’t let her have anymore, but they only have one dog and two cats).
A good piece of advice she has to share is: How do you know you’ll fail or be good at something if you never try. Failure is an opportunity. The failure will make you strong.
Don’t have the time to commit to being an advocate? Christian said the Pillars of CASA Program is a great way for anyone in the community to get involved.
Pillars of CASA is a way for community members to provide CASA with a base of support through monetary donations. This is an opportunity for people to become involved if they’re unable to become an advocate, due to time constraints or other issues.