Page 2’s Mackenzie Krage on Her Work as a CASA

Mackenzie Krage recently joined the Page 2 team. Below, she describes another commitment she is passionate about — her work as a court-appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system in Cook County.

With a radiant smile and outward composure, June had a refreshing candor for a child who had been dealt her hand. Through no fault of her own, June had entered the system. Some children are plucked from their siblings while others circle a revolving door of foster homes. Too many endure further abuse and neglect in the very system designed to protect them. As June’s court-appointed special advocate (CASA), I vowed to be the change in her story, attempting to right some of the wrongs crippling the broken system with CASA of Cook County—a nonprofit organization that believes in the power of advocacy to ensure every child placed in protective custody is given equal opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.

Consistency is essentially foreign to children in care, and I was just another stranger tasked with capturing sensitive information capable of reopening old wounds. However, I knew what June did not yet know: that I would soon become a constant in her life, monitoring her safety, propelling her case forward in the courts, advocating for her best interests and holding all agencies responsible until permanency could ultimately be achieved, and maintained.

Permanency refers to the desired outcome of intervention and service that the court determines to be consistent with the child’s health, safety and well-being. Each case is unique, with individualized permanency plans that require strict adherence to reach resolution, as outlined by the court. In most circumstances, children are reunited with their families as was the case with June, but in some cases kin, adoptive or foster parents become the legal guardians. CASAs work with attorneys and social workers to help facilitate the permanency process and speak on the child’s behalf.

CASAs are essentially the eyes and ears of the court. With multiple parties on each case, all of whom are trying to push their own agenda, we are responsible for cutting though the noise and ensuring that all decisions made are ultimately in the child’s best interest. We conduct independent visits with the child, routinely interview family members and corresponding support ecosystem, and testify our findings at court hearings and other interagency meetings.

In doing so, CASAs cultivate meaningful relationships with their assigned children and serve as the mentor they never had. I connected each conversation with June to the tools and support she needed to not only exist but succeed in our world.

If you are interested in helping children like June emerge ready to face the world on their own terms, please click here to learn more about becoming a CASA and other ways to get involved with CASA of Cook County. After all, these children are our hope for the future.