A teenage boy who was given up on by his parents and passed over for adoption by the aunt and uncle who adopted his younger brother — this was Carl Brantley’s first case as a CASA volunteer.
The boy was juggled from foster homes to residential programs to Denver Children’s Home which is where he lived when Carl first met him in 2018.
“He was one of those kids that didn’t trust anybody. He thought everybody was out to get him and it was very challenging because I had never worked with anyone that didn’t trust anyone,” said Carl.
Over time, Carl earned the young man’s trust, and the break-through moment came in a simple manner as break-through moments often do.
“He told me that even though he had grown up in El Paso County, he had never been to the zoo,” Carl said. “So I took him to the zoo and he looked like a six-year-old kid. He was 16 but he was in heaven.”
“The best thing about that case is the first time he called me on a Saturday. ‘Carl,’ he said, ‘I need to talk.’ My heart just went yes. He trusted me enough to call me to talk.”
With Carl advocating for his best interest, the boy made progress and eventually became the head of his class at Denver Children’s Home before emancipating and moving in with his aunt and uncle. While the case didn’t end the way Carl envisioned, he knows he made a difference.
“(The boy) told his therapist that I was the first man he ever trusted. He didn’t trust men; He was angry at men and would get mad at male teachers,” Carl recalled. “I think that by having a consistent male role model in his life that was just there to support him, I think it helped him to trust. I believe if CASA had not been involved, he would have run away from that home. He would have been back on the streets with gangs and in trouble with the law.”
How Carl began his CASA journey
Mentoring young men is something Carl has always enjoyed. During his enjoyable career which included 25 years in merchandising for Levi Strauss, as well as several years in leadership development for the Deluxe Corporation, Carl volunteered for an international social fraternity where he worked with young men who were the first in their families to attend college.
His passion for helping others succeed is what led his wife Kathy, familiar with CASA from her job at the Marian House, to encourage Carl to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
There was no need to mention it twice. Upon retirement, Carl jumped at the opportunity to become a CASA volunteer and was thrilled to take the two-week training course from CASA’s trainer, Mittie Pedraza.
“Mittie was so good about showing us the theories of things you would need to learn but explaining how the real-life application works. She did a wonderful job preparing us,” he said. “Any company can train you, but once you get out in the real world, every case is different. What you have to learn is how to use the resources available to you to help your case and to help your child.”
Empowering others on their CASA journeys
Once Carl completed his first case, it was obvious to the CASA staff that he was born to mentor others. That’s why he was asked to be a Peer Coordinator, a volunteer who is promoted into a leadership position to support newly trained advocates.
“I love training people and helping people,” he said. “As a PC, I get to watch my advocates go through the same things I went through on my first case.”
Another young man abandoned by his parents and given up on by his grandmother – This was another advocate’s first case. The advocate was Pete Bressler and Carl was his Peer Coordinator.
“The boy was getting ready to run. He was going to leave,” Carl said about the case. “He was tired of being in group homes with people telling him what to do. He was big in music and wanted to go to LA to get into the music scene. Pete did a great job of getting him to understand. Through Life Long Links, we got the boy in touch with other members of his family and that’s when his father got involved. If Pete had not been there, he would have run from the group home. Now, he’s on track to graduate from high school this spring.”
Bringing more men into CASA
Carl is a big believer that more men need to become Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“A lot of men would love to get involved with something,” he said. “For them to understand the need, I always ask them who the biggest influence in their life was. A lot of them say their dad and then I ask what if you didn’t have a dad. If we don’t get to the young men, they’re the ones that are going to run, be in homes, and be in gangs.”
Boys who grow up with male role models who are abusive, violent, or addicted are likely to repeat the same patterns. When a safe and responsible man steps into their lives as a positive male role model, that cycle can be broken. Learn more about how YOU can be a positive male role model in the lives of our at-risk youth in the Pikes Peak Region.