Are you a fan of New Hampshire’s fairs? CASA volunteer guardian ad litem Alan Amero finds himself at home at events like the Fryeburg Fair, at the Hopkinton Fair, and this year he ventured out to Laconia’s first Pumpkin Festival to delight the crowds with some fall favorite baked goods! Summer and fall are Alan’s busy seasons prepping his apple crisp and Indian pudding for his concession stand at fairs in New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts. He’s a regular at the Pittsfield Hot Air Balloon Festival, sheep and wool festivals in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and old home days, peddling his tasty baking.
Alan moved to the Lakes Region in 1981 early in his working career. He has had several careers through his life, from managing offices, to construction, to running bed & breakfasts to conducting sleigh rides. He started his concessions gig in 1992 on a part-time basis – at his mother’s suggestion to make apple crisp and Indian pudding. This year was his 23rd year going to Fryeburg Fair, which is by far the largest he attends, he says, noting he’ll go through dozens of gallons of ice cream every day!
But Alan is a man whose big smile and twinkly eyes aren’t just about whipping up sweet cinnamon smells. He is a volunteer guardian ad litem with CASA of NH, advocating for children in abuse and neglect cases in the Lakes Region. Since Alan accepted his first case as a CASA in the summer of 2013, he has advocated for seven children in Plymouth and Laconia courts.
Alan is a jovial man who came to CASA looking for something more to do in his busy life.
“I didn’t have anything to do that week,” he jokes.
In truth, he didn’t really know what it meant to be a CASA, but he wanted a new challenge. Hearing about the opportunity on public service announcements led to talking with staff about the role, which led to applying and completing CASA’s comprehensive pre-service training.
Wanting to help others is not a new endeavor for Alan. After 9/11, he was active in a community effort to provide respite vacations to first responders and their families in the Lakes Region. Hosting about 20 families for four days at a time was an emotional, moving and tremendous experience, he says. On a trip to New York City touring some of the city that was most affected, he was impressed at how no anger was expressed, instead it was all about taking care of each other.
As practical as a New Hampshire voter can be, Alan asks: for one kid who ends up in a good situation through his advocacy as a CASA and the state’s child protection system, what are we saving? The child, the family, and the taxpayers. For Alan, there is an easy calculation that shows how much money taxpayers save when children are safely and successfully reunited with their parents. Like many CASAs, he believes that we take care of each other and doing that well saves us all money.
Asked what brings Alan to call for another case, another child to advocate for, he said it’s the on-going challenge of learning. But as he described what he learns with each case, it’s seemed to more a tale of learning to communicate with parents who are in a process intended to be rehabilitative and helpful but which tends to feel adversarial and punitive. Understanding that when he has to read legal paperwork three or four times, he appreciates how challenging this is for the parent who is so emotionally stressed by removal or possible removal of their child from their care. Alan sees this as a time to slow down and pay attention to the person across the table or on the phone.
Confidentiality to protect the children governing child protection cases prevents sharing most information about these cases. When the cases close, the CASAs role is ended and many CASAs wonder – and worry – if their recommendations were right. Alan has been in that position, and recently he had a chance encounter with a parent of a child for whom he had been the CASA. The parent saw Alan and said hello and filled him on how their lives were proceeding. The child had grown and developed tremendously (6 feet tall, Alan reported, astonishing for a child not yet in elementary school), and the parent shared news of doing well and continued connections with supports in the community. This is what every CASA hopes for, with every child he or she advocates for.
— Written by Jess Storey, Program Manager