Jackie De’Anda has always had a heart for service.
The mother of three retired from the U.S. Army in 2013 after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, and Korea. Nowadays, her service is a little closer to home as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in Colorado Springs.
“While I was in the army, I was an equal opportunity leader plus a victim’s advocate, so I enjoyed helping other people,” she said. “When I got out, I was looking for volunteer positions for victim advocates and CASA came up. When I went through training, I fell in love and said this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Jackie’s first experience as a CASA was with three siblings who’d had a rough start in life due to their parents’ problems with drug abuse and domestic violence.
When the children were removed from their home, they were placed in foster care together, but the oldest developed behavioral issues and was moved to a residential treatment center.
Although the children were safe, the separation was hard on the close-knit trio. That’s where Jackie came in. She not only recommended to the court that the oldest be placed closer to home so that sibling visits could be more frequent, but she was the first to suggest therapy and medication for the girl.
Jackie continued to advocate for the trio to be adopted together. It’s what the kids wanted, and it’s what was in their best interest. Jackie was the one that made sure it happened. Eventually, through CASA’s Life Long Links program, relatives were located who were able and willing to provide a safe and loving environment for all three kids together. If it weren’t for Jackie coming on the case as a CASA, the children would have been separately adopted.
“All kids asked to be together. That’s what I brought up to the judge,” Jackie said. “They want to be together in a home. If a CASA had not stepped in, that sibling bond would have been broken.”
When asked about the personal benefits to being a CASA, Jackie says it’s satisfaction. “Satisfaction that I’ve done something. I’ve done something to help these kids get where they need to be. Plus, it’s gratifying to know that the judge listens to your recommendations and concerns for the kids.”
Her first case hit close to home for Jackie as she has three children of her own – ages 13, nine, and two. In addition to being a mom and a Court Appointed Special Advocate, she’s finishing up her bachelor’s degree in human services and is about to begin a post-graduate program. Clearly, Jackie is a master of time management, and CASA of the Pikes Peak Region is extremely grateful to her and others like her who know that no matter how busy life gets, there’s always time to give back.
To find out more about how YOU can advocate on behalf of sibling groups, click here.