Several years ago, while Steve South and his wife waited for their movie to start, an ad popped up on screen at Kimball’s Peak Three Theater. It was a CASA ad calling for more volunteers to advocate for abused kids. At that moment, Steve put CASA in the back of his mind as something he’d do in retirement.
“Someday, that is something I will look into,” he told himself.
Someday came sooner than he expected. It was April of 2019 when Steve heard the Memorial Hospital PA system announce a Code Blue in the room where his daughter was in labor with his grandson.
“Within 45 seconds, there were more than 20 medical professionals in that room,” he recalls. “Nobody panicked. Nobody talked. Everybody knew exactly what to do to get that little baby breathing.”
Little Amos spent ten days in intensive care. Because of the actions of the medical professionals that day, he’s now an active toddler growing up in a happy and healthy home as one of Steve’s fourteen grandchildren.
“When I thought about all the people that cared for my little grandson that day, doing something that I couldn’t do, I thought that NOW is the time for me to help other people. I don’t have to wait until I retire. I can be a CASA now,” Steve said.
Steve completed his CASA training later that same year and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate by taking an oath before Fourth Judicial District Judge William Bain in November of 2019.
“My daughter and son-in-law and baby Amos were joined there by my wife and I. We got a picture with Judge Bain because I wanted my grandson to know when he got older that it was he who got me involved with CASA.”
One month later, Steve found himself advocating for a teen boy who had behavioral problems.
This boy walked a long road of rejection and abandonment, beginning when he was a baby. Nobody had ever celebrated a holiday with him. He had never received birthday gifts or furniture in his room. Nobody had taken him out to eat at a restaurant that wasn’t fast food. He didn’t know what it felt like to be loved, and he certainly didn’t have experience with a trusted adult sticking around to teach him about life.
Steve has changed all of that.
“When I met him, he was on his eighth caseworker. It took a while for that bond to be created because the subconscious question was ‘Well how long are you gonna be around’,” Steve said.
Steve stuck around though. He stuck around to advocate in court… to speak up about educational needs… to encourage the boy to take driver’s ed, get a job, and explore career paths… to bond over online gaming… to get the boy to open up about hopes and dreams.
Steve still works in the finance industry. He also volunteers for another nonprofit in town and spends time with his wife, their four children, their spouses and fourteen grandchildren. Yet he has somehow carved out space in his life for vulnerable foster teens. He knows he’s making a difference too because – even though it took some time – this boy eventually trusted him enough to begin calling him and asking when they could meet again.
The boy’s case closed when he turned 18. He has a job and is considering different paths he might take.
“He’s all over the map on what he wants to do,” Steve said. “Normally I would push an 18-year-old to make decisions, but I realized that I needed to make him aware of his resources but then just let him daydream for a while. He had never been able to daydream before.”
Steve is on a mission to recruit other men to work with boys who have had similar experiences.
“I did two weeks of in-class training and learned about stuff I didn’t know anything about. CASA has a very extensive and detailed training program and a very well-organized support system in place for volunteers. You not only have a peer coordinator as your go-to-person, but they’ll sit down with you to draft your first court report. Then there’s a CASA supervisor that will occasionally have coffee sessions or wine sessions to talk about what’s going on with your case. There’s even a special program for anyone working with teenagers.”
Want to join Steve on his journey to stand up for vulnerable kids? Learn how YOU can get involved here.