Sharon Fitzgerald – Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
DUTIES: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA’s) are trained to advocate for children in the child welfare system. A CASA develops a relationship with the child he/she advocates for and follows the child’s case to ensure the child receives needed services. The goal is seeing the child placed in a safe, permanent home.
PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Until 2014, Sharon was a resident of northern Baltimore County and taught middle school for the Carroll County Public School system for 20 years. Throughout her career, she encountered very diverse children, families, and situations. Although an advocate for all children, Sharon always found herself drawn to those in need of additional support, academically as well as emotionally.
Sharon has been married for 40 years this May, and she and her husband have one daughter. In 2014, her husband convinced her to retire so that they could move to the Eastern Shore in order to enjoy their transition into their retirement years, but more obviously so that he could pursue his kite boarding hobby! Admittedly, it was a difficult change for Sharon, but she has found her niche, by becoming a CASA volunteer.
BEST PART OF YOUR VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE: Advocating for children in need has always been my mode of operation and knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of children is the most gratifying experience. Meeting and getting to know the children and watching their growth over time when placed within an environment that helps them thrive–seeing them be successful, happy, and enjoying the life they deserve, providing hope, and ultimately the reality of a better future for them is the best part of my volunteer experience.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED: Although I do understand the necessity, I think one of the biggest challenges is dealing with the timetable involved and all the protocols involved in dealing with the court and related agencies.
WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE OTHERS TO KNOW: First, in becoming a CASA, you’re not alone. Initially, you receive in-depth training and, subsequently, continued support throughout your case(s). The CASA team is there to guide you, so never hesitate to address any questions or concerns with them. You don’t have to figure it out on your own!
Second, please know that the time and energy you expend in being an advocate for these children is extremely important and helpful. Do your best to develop relationships with the children and with all collaterals involved and maintain contact with them. Be persistent.
CASA PROGRAM STAFF STATEMENT ABOUT SHARON: Sharon is a passionate, reliable and dedicated CASA volunteer. She communicates regularly with staff and works collaboratively with interested parties toward meeting the best interests of the children she represents. She is an organized and excellent reporter of critical information to the court. She serves her position with a pleasant calmness and openness and takes an unbiased approach to her investigative work and reporting. Sharon cares deeply for the children she represents but maintains appropriate boundaries. In her time as a CASA volunteer, Sharon’s case has been dealt many difficult situations, all of which she has handled and overcome with grace. She truly goes above and beyond in advocating for the children she serves. We are so very fortunate to have Sharon on the Lower Shore CASA team!