The month of March is Women’s History Month! It is important to read about women in history and the contributions of women but is also vital to pay attention to the women that are making history right now! For this month, I would like to highlight one of the strongest and most compassionate women I know: my mother.
My mom, LeeAnne Owens, was born on December 1st, 1972. She is a mother of 5, a grandmother of 1, and a program manager for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). CASA is an association that supports children in foster care that have experienced abuse and neglect. This is a volunteer program that believes every child deserves a loving and healthy home. My mom began as a volunteer and moved up to be the Program Director position of our county’s CASA program.
For this article, I interviewed my mom about her job, motherhood, and mental health. I wanted an insight into how a woman that is changing lives everyday manages her role in the world. I aspire to be just like my mother as a future parent, educator, and advocate.
I started by asking why she first volunteered for CASA, and why she eventually decided to interview for the position of program director. She first signed up because she was a trained educational advocate and passionate about the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education. She wished to broaden her scope of advocacy. After 6 months, the then-program director resigned for another position. She asked my mom to apply for her role. She says, “I had been out of the work force raising my children for almost 20 years and was so nervous! When the Judge called to offer me a job, I was so surprised I shouted, “are you kidding?!” right in her ear.”
A huge part of being a part CASA is helping children that have been severely mistreated. This comes with emotional stress that can be difficult to deal with. When asked about how she handles this, my mom said that she relies on her fellow program directors, court staff and CASA staff to decompress with. She reluctantly admits to taking out feelings by crying or yelling in private. Energy is channeled to into her other hobbies, too! She enjoys reading and playing with her 10-month-old grandson.
One of the greatest things I have learned from my mom is how to handle my own emotions. My ability to identify and express feelings is all due to her. When I first asked to go to therapy, she was open and made an appointment with me that night. I know that I can rely on others because she has taught me to do so. There are so many things my mom has given me, but her “dealing with emotional stress” lessons are some of the most useful.
I have 4 siblings, which means my mother has 5 kids! I asked what her favorite part about motherhood is, and she said there is no way to choose one thing. Her oldest is 24, and her youngest is 17. She stated that watching her kids become adults is fascinating and terrifying. I tend to feel the same way about becoming an adult!
My mom has 2 autistic children, and she has had to advocate for all 5 of us in an educational sense, regardless of an IEP. I asked her what the hardest part about this is, and she said that it takes a lot of work to remove your emotions from logic, data, and law. Nobody knows a child like a parent, and all members of a team making decisions for your child need to understand who the expert is. I am so grateful to have a mother that always fought for me through everything. I advocate for my own education because she modeled it for me since a young age. I only hope I can encourage my future students and children in the same way she has.
To end the interview, I asked my mom what her favorite thing about herself is. I wanted her to recognize that she is amazing and beautiful! She said that her favorite part of herself is her openness to change. As she gets older, she has changed her mind a lot. This doesn’t make her wishy-washy! It’s a sign of growth and self-improvement. She becomes a better person every day, and she always pushes me to do the same.
This interview gave me an insight into my mom that I have never seen before. I don’t speak to her about her job much, since so much of it on confidential. I am glad to hear about her experience more than I ever have before! As a future teacher, it was interesting to hear the parent’s side of advocacy. I will take this not only into my career, but any future familial dealings in my life.
Since I know my mother is reading this, I want to finish this article with a message for her.
I have been blessed with many wonderful things in this life. I have the best friends, an enjoyable and ongoing education, a career path I am excited for, and a healthy outlook on the future. Of all the blessings I have been granted, the greatest is that out of all the women I could’ve been born to, I was born to you.
I love you endlessly and unconditionally, mom.
For more information about CASA and how to volunteer, visit https://nationalcasagal.org/advocate-for-children/be-a-casa-gal-volunteer/