KANSAS CITY, Mo. — During a time when it can seem hard to find the good, one Kansas City man is choosing to be the change and help kids in the system.
Shamarr Fonville began volunteering with Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) services about six months ago.
“For me, it’s a little bit personal,” Fonville said. “I was a foster kid for a long time in the system, so when I had a chance, I wanted to give back.“
Fonville, who is now 41, was placed in foster care by the age of 7 and remembers it clearly.
“It’s a tough time being that young and going to different homes and you have all these different questions ... different feelings,” Fonville said. "That makes you feel uncomfortable and that makes you feel unwanted as well.“
After spending more than a decade in the foster care system, Fonville is taking his personal experience and using it for good, at a time when it can feel like there’s not enough.
“In the system you can feel alone, you need an outlet and some people to talk to,” he said. “Not really having that kind of outlet, knowing the things I knew about CASA, I knew how important it would be to be a volunteer.”
In Jackson County in 2019, nearly 3,000 children were placed into foster care, but there were only enough volunteers to serve 1,264.
“You can tell that there is a gap and how we can fill that gap is by community members stepping up to become CASA volunteers,”said Angie Blumel, president and CEO of CASA in Jackson County.
All you need is a heart for kids, and Blumel said CASA will provide the rest, including training and a background check.
“We know going into 2021 that the need will be great and we need to be ready,” she said.
Fonville said he’s now building tradition he didn’t have with his own kids and spending his first Christmas as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
"As a kid, it can change you look at Christmas a little bit differently, right? You don't have the same kind of traditions that maybe normal families have," Fonville said. "Christmas wasn't always festive, if you will. So it's very tough as a kid and sometimes you didn't get presents and those things as well, so it can be tough for a kid in the system for sure."
CASA is still looking for volunteers to advocate for children, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Training and interactions with children can all be done virtually.