Shannon French: Mentoring teens in out-of-home placement

Shannon French has always been a caregiver.

Her first experiences with altruism came as a child when her grandmother’s office would adopt a family for the holidays. Shannon would join her grandmother in shopping for other children, and it became an annual tradition. As she grew older, Shannon continued the tradition on her own.

“I think it’s a privilege and a responsibility to help other people,” she said.

It might be because of the time she’s spent volunteering in the Hanger store for teens, or maybe it’s because of her work with teen events through CASA’s Milton Foster Children’s Fund program, but Shannon has a special place in her heart for the teens and older kids living in out-of-home placement.

That’s why she and her husband of three years plan to eventually adopt an older child.

“The whole point of adoption would be to give a family to a child who doesn’t have a family,” she said. “It’s not really about me. It’s about them. That’s why we want an older kid.”

She admits the goal is a bit overwhelming but is committed to learning about the process and gaining an understanding of what teens in foster care go through. So she went through the CASA training and just closed her first case as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a role she was sworn in for by the Fourth Judicial Court in 2017.

Shannon advocated in the courts for a teenage girl who was removed from her home due to her mother’s illegal activities. The girl’s first 14 years on earth were chaotic, but Shannon stepped in to help her weather the storms.

“My focus with her was just building the relationship and finding out what was going on with her, what she wanted, and if she was safely being taken care of,” Shannon explained. “When she had a complaint about her living situation, I had to find out if it was just normal teenage authority issues or if there was a concern.”

Eventually the girl was placed with relatives and Shannon said it was like flipping a switch.

“Attendance, grades, everything improved,” she said. “You could see the comments from teachers going from negative to positive.”

Shannon, who is an analyst for Progressive Insurance, spends a lot of her spare time as a CASA advocate, Hanger volunteer, and Milton Foster Children’s Fund event volunteer. She and her husband also rescue dogs with four of their own and one foster from the National Mill Dog Rescue.

“I would like to save the whole world if I could,” she said.

If you want to join Shannon in speaking up for teens living in out-of-home placement, consider becoming a CASA advocate. Click here to learn more.

Return to 30 Stories in 30 Days webpage