Adele James – Child Advocate Nearly Two Decades

Adele James – Child Advocate Nearly Two Decades

Story, photo courtesy CASA

Phoenix resident Adele James was sitting on the couch watching television 17 years ago when she saw a commercial that changed her life.

Adele James

Adele James

“I don’t remember much about the advertisement, but I could see there was a program that was helping children in foster care, so I knew I wanted to get involved,” James said.

The program, James learned, is called CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, and recruits and trains volunteers statewide to serve as advocates in court for children in the foster care system.

To date, James has advocated for about 30 children in foster care, but what makes her unique is that her focus has been solely on the youth who   need   her   most   –   African American children.

“The children in our community are suffering,” James said. “They’re being left out and being left in the system. I can’t imagine what it must feel like  to  think  you’re  going  to sleep in your own bed at night, only to have strangers come and take you away and place you in an unfamiliar home with strangers.”

She added, “They probably don’t look like you and they don’t really understand you, yet you’re expected to be able to get along with everyone in that home and labeled if you don’t.”

Although black children make up only 5 percent of children in Arizona, they make up almost 14 percent of children in the foster care system, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security. Less than 28 percent of these children are living with a family member and less than half of them are likely to go home.

“They’re being attended to by people who don’t look like them and people who don’t understand them,” James said.

James said that as an advocate, she not only ensures that black children are moving swiftly through the court system toward a permanent home, but that she connects them with resources in the community that they may not have access to if they are living in homes that don’t understand their racial and ethnic identities.

James often takes her appointed children to places they have never had the opportunity to see, such as Cirque du Soleil, the Black Rodeo, Schnepf Farms and the Olive Mill. She takes the time to talk with them about black history, the civil rights movement and the struggles that they could encounter throughout their lifetime as African Americans.

“Obviously I do it from my heart because we don’t get paid,” James said.

While CASA volunteers are only allowed to begin with one case, James has served in her capacity so long that she is currently appointed to five different cases with nine children.

Leticia D’Amore, who manages the CASA of Arizona program statewide, said that there is an urgent need for more volunteers, especially African American, male and Hispanic volunteers to be able to better serve the diverse children living in out-of-home care in Arizona.

African American volunteers currently make up only  four  percent  of  the approximately 850 CASA volunteers statewide, D’Amore said. And out of all the children who have CASA volunteers advocating for them, only 9 percent are African American. “As an African American woman and as a CASA volunteer,  I  want  to  see more  African  American volunteers  advocating  for more  African  American children,” James said.

To learn more about CASA and to become a volunteer, visit www.casaofarizona.org  or  call  (602) 452-3683.

 

2 Comments

  1. Lawrence Craft
    Jun 20, 2013 @ 08:14:43

    As a former LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER I felt a compulsion to continue serving (a) community in some way that involved offenders, youth or adult. I tried corrections but I soon developed health problems from the dusty conditions at the local prison. I’m originally from Ohio!
    I was eventually stared toward and became a CASA, in 2008, now in my 5th year, I was CASA of the year in Kingman , Az in 2011. Although I have only had one Bi Racial cae if was a rewarding experience.
    The only thing is there are no, to my knowledge , any black foster family’s in this area.
    Children yes! Placed with a black family? No. Fortunately in my case the biracial children were able, with my help to be adopted by their bio grandparents (white). But what bout the rest,I see a lot of African American children with White (placements) but I have yet to see the opposite ! There is something wrong with this picture.
    My wife, who was a LSW for several private adoption agencies back in Ohio spent a lot of time explaining to (white foster parents) how to address the personal needs of African American children, ie, taking care of their hair, skin problems, etc.
    There is not only a great need for African American Foster Parents in Az but a need to educate White foster parents. It’s sad to see black child with nappy or unkept hair, mismatched clothes, and socially separated.
    I’m just saying………………

    Reply

  2. Deborah Hollman
    Jun 22, 2013 @ 22:03:35

    Very nice article written about Adele. I had the opportunity and pleasure of meeting Adele at a recent CASA training in Phoenix, and it was clear how passionate she is about advocating for children in the Foster Care system. I look forward to attending one of her upcoming events she spearheads in attempting to recruit more African American CASA volunteers.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Back to Top