A retired teacher, Dee Berkeley has always helped community youth. As a ten-year Piedmont CASA volunteer, she sets the standard for other volunteers. Piedmont CASA trains volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children before local courts. CASA volunteers work with these children and assist the courts in determining how to ensure each child’s safety and well-being.
Ten years ago, Piedmont CASA received Berkeley’s application. Recently retired, she stated that she was looking for a challenging volunteer job where she could utilize her strong interest in problems of child abuse and neglect and her organizational skills and experience gathering information and writing reports. She became a volunteer with CASA and has served more than 25 children.
Berkeley routinely volunteers 25-50 hours each month. She works equally well with babies as with adolescents, with boys as well as girls. She also attends to children with special needs with as much dedication as she does those without learning challenges. Berkeley’s dedication is easily revealed by a case she was assigned in February 2003. Three siblings, all under age eight, were removed from their mother due to her inability to address her mental health issues while properly caring for her children. The children, described as being “out of control” and “dirty,” were noted as presenting with both behavioral and psychological problems. Their father was living at a local shelter. Berkeley dove into this case with her mind and heart trained on the children. She monitored their foster placement, education and health; she supervised parent-child visits; she promoted meetings and information sharing between service provider; and she spent hours getting to know the children. She was an important voice for these children in court, presenting meaningful facts and recommendations to the judge. Ultimately, Berkeley helped them find a safe, stable home with their father, while maintaining a strong and constant connection to their mother.
Berkeley’s service meets a critical community need. Hundreds of local children are subject to abuse and neglect each year, and their voices would go largely unheard with volunteers like her. In addition, Berkeley aids communication between service providers who are often overworked. The impact of her volunteer work is significant and measurable; in this particular case three siblings were able to remain together, residing now in the safe, stable, and nurturing home of their father.
Berkeley’s success as a volunteer is admirable and unique because of her tirelessness, her ability to think creatively and her long-term commitment. Volunteers remain with Piedmont CASA for an average of 22 months. Berkeley’s ten-year – and ongoing – commitment to the program is truly exemplary. She is a part of Piedmont CASA and the community at large and works each day to make life better for the community, one case at a time.