When it comes to volunteering with Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, some might wonder, what’s it like to have two volunteers living under the same roof? Married couple and CASA advocates Toni Egger and Rob Taylor have the answer: two really is company.
Initially Rob and Toni were interested in becoming foster parents. And while they had the space in their home and in their hearts to foster, they were very busy raising their two small sons. For Toni, becoming a CASA was the perfect solution. It allowed her to help the same children in need, while caring for her own children. Toni was the first to take the leap to volunteer as a CASA in Seattle, when they were living on the west coast.
A hop, skip, and a jump of moves later, Toni, Rob and family landed in New Hampshire. As they settled into the Granite State, Toni resumed her CASA role, this time on the east coast. Concurrently Rob volunteered to help new immigrants establish their lives in the United States. However, after changes to immigration policy drastically reduced the need for that volunteer work, Rob decided to join the CASA family alongside his wife.
Three years have since passed, giving the couple ample time to discover what it’s like for them to serve simultaneously as CASAs. The verdict is resoundingly positive. While each must serve on their own cases and they can’t discuss any case details, as all case specifics are confidential, they can understand and relate to what the other is going through. “We have our own little support system right here,” Rob reports.
“I agree with that entirely,” says Toni. “We can give each other emotional support. There can be some rough moments in this work, and I have Rob as my friend and support. And we can also share our victories when something goes really well. In our collective cases we’ve had two really successful adoptions, and it was great to be able to celebrate those with each other.”
Both Toni and Rob feel very fortunate to have had the childhood and educational opportunities they did. For each of them, CASA is a way to give back and help children who don’t have those same advantages. As Rob puts it, “We want to do something that contributes to the welfare of the world.”
The work of a CASA is hard at times, but Toni finds the children themselves the most rewarding part of this role. “It’s the kids—it’s just the kids. They’re open and ready to have adult friends and to look to someone who they trust to help them meet their needs. I’ve developed pretty good relationships with each child I’ve worked with. I’m still invited by some to their birthday parties. And seeing them succeed at things—it’s those little moments that are pretty rewarding.”
Rob too delights in moments he’s shared with the children. “I took a chess set to a visit with my teenage CASA child last winter, because he loves to play games outside but it was too cold and snowy. And darned if he didn’t beat me at the first game! Turns out he’s a pretty good chess player! So, these kids are full of surprises.” Here Toni chimes in, “Rob said he was pretty proud of himself too!”
At CASA of NH, we have seen that abuse and neglect can often be a cycle that continues through generations. But the opposite is also true. The countless hours Toni and Rob have spent in service has had a ripple effect on their family. “Our younger son worked in Boston with an organization that helped young kids learn math and business skills, and he said that he was committed to that because of what he had seen us do over the years with CASA and other volunteer services. Now that he’s a dad and runs his own business he doesn’t have time for that, but I think he appreciates his own kids that much more, and we certainly feel fortunate that our grandkids have a solid family life. It makes you wake up each day feeling grateful.”
Toni and Rob would encourage others, couples included, to consider volunteering with CASA. “It’s a great way to help less fortunate people in the community,” says Toni, “particularly if you like kids. And if you have spent time with kids in some capacity, as a coach, teacher or parent, then you have all the experience you need to get involved.”
“We tell people that it’s not for everyone,” Rob continues, “but after your initial training you can decide if it’s more than you can handle, or if you’re saying ‘let’s go, let’s do this! You can decide whether this is right for you.”
Those who choose to volunteer with CASA can expect to have the full resources of the organization behind them, as Rob and Toni have experienced. “The support and training by the CASA organization has been really great. I hope that people who are potentially interested in signing up are made aware of just how much support there is. It’s impressive,” says Toni.
What’s also impressive is the dedication this couple has shown to children in need. Two terrific people, one household, and one shared mission of helping children.