A quarter century. That’s how long Karen Hilborn has been speaking up for abused and neglected children in Colorado Springs. She’s the longest standing volunteer for CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, having first become a Court Appointed Special Advocate in 1992.
“It suits me,” she said, simply, when asked what has kept her around for 26 years.
Maybe it’s the time she spent volunteering in shelters or halfway houses. Or perhaps it’s because of her days as a teacher and principal in south central Los Angeles. It’s probably a combination of all of those things mixed together with compassion, dedication, and a true heart for kids.
“In the 70’s in the inner city, I had to be the advocate because there wasn’t really anyone else,” she explains of her time as an educator in California. “I spent a lot of time in homes with parents trying to help them understand the systems relating to education and navigating through life.”
Being a CASA is natural to Karen and she says she’s not stopping any time soon.
She recalls one case with six children who were placed in six separate foster homes after being removed from their parents due to sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. Karen knew how important it was for these kids to stay in touch with each other. She arranged for sibling visits, connected with each child’s therapist, and was a vital member of the team that worked tirelessly to make sure these kids were placed in a safe and loving home. In the end, the children were adopted into a loving family.
Then there’s the story of Colin, a young man who had been down a tough road of rejection. Karen saw potential in him and stuck by his side, advocating for him and connecting him with resources until ultimately he was placed in the safe and loving home of an uncle he didn’t even know he had.
Over the years, Karen has spoken up for more than 50 kids like this. She also heads up CASA’s holiday toy and clothing drives, and oversees the Kid’s Closet at the CASA office.
“My favorite thing about being a CASA is working closely with the kids themselves,” she said. “…Perhaps surprisingly I’ve found that working with the parents has also been rewarding. I’ve always felt that if I could help support the parents by being on ‘their’ team, too, then they could hopefully be better parents, which means better parents for the kids I serve.”
Karen is a former educator, but you don’t have to have a background in teaching to be a CASA. All backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to take the CASA volunteer training. If you’d like to join Karen in making a true difference for children right here in your community – call us today at 719-447-9898.