By the time he turned 10 years old, Roy Thomas didn’t trust most adults.
Roy first entered the foster system at 8 years old, and then again at 10 years old, after his biological mother struggled with addiction and his father was incarcerated. He was placed in numerous temporary homes and felt like he was “poked and prodded” for answers by caseworkers and therapists. He was used to adults coming in and out of his life.
So, when Roy found himself among the children of Elkhart County who receive a CASA volunteer upon their entry to the juvenile court system due to substantiated reports of abuse or neglect, he didn’t expect much.
Roy will even admit — at first, he was quite skeptical of his CASA volunteer, Art Bowers.
“I thought he was another person coming to question me,” Roy said.
But Art didn’t ask Roy any questions when they first met. He simply sat down next to Roy and the two watched TV together.
“[Art] wasn’t like everyone else,” Roy said. “He just wanted to be my friend.”
Throughout Roy’s time in the foster care system, the two regularly spent time together, building their bond. Art would even accompany Roy when he would visit his biological mother.
“He’d come with me because I trusted him. I wanted him to be there,” Roy said.
Today, Roy has built a life of his own. He’s getting married in October — of course, Art is invited. He works at the South Bend Community Re-Entry Center, helping incarcerated individuals prepare for life outside of prison. Without Art, Roy said he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“Art told me ‘You can break the cycle. You don’t have to do the same things your parents did,” Roy said. “’There are all these opportunities [for you].’”
The impact of CAPS
For many children like Roy, their CASA volunteer is the only stable presence in their lives. CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a national program model that pairs trained volunteers with children in the court system due to substantiated abuse or neglect. A CASA volunteer represents the best interest of the child in court hearings and other areas of the child’s life.
Situations of abuse and neglect can often become cyclical, with children aging out of systems without the support or the examples they need to create a better life for themselves and their families. But with programs like CASA, we can change that.