By Alison Goldman
The Cause: Voices for Children
Jenna Price, 45
Hometown: San Diego
Family: Husband, Joseph; daughter, Audrey, 10
Jenna Price and Jacob*, 14, love spending time together, but she isn't Jacob's mom or teacher. She's his Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)—and the reason that Jacob, a former foster child, now has a permanent home.
CASA volunteers are assigned by judges to look after abused and neglected kids in the foster care system. These mentors are often the only constant in a childhood filled with changing homes and faces. Since CASA's 1977 inception, its advocates have served more than 2 million kids.
Jenna, a former attorney and current stay-at-home mom, was at a work event 12 years ago when she heard about CASA's San Diego chapter, Voices for Children, and she signed up immediately. "There's potential in all of these children," says Jenna, who has since overseen seven foster kids. "They just need someone to pay attention to what's going on in their lives."
In 2005, Jenna met Jacob, then 9. Since entering foster care three years earlier, he had moved six times. Jacob was scared and angry, and he had trouble trusting people. Because of his multiple placements and emotional instability, he had been deemed "unadoptable," meaning he would be in foster care until age 18. But Jenna had hope for Jacob. Rather than concentrating on his past troubles, she focused on what the two of them could do in the present to shape a positive future. Jenna built his trust by spending time with him—they'd go on hikes and visit the zoo together.
She worked tirelessly to find Jacob the right classes and teachers to help him succeed at school, and she went to court to fight for his right to a foster home that could meet his needs. When Jacob was 11, the court saw his progress and reversed the unadoptable decision; soon after, he met the couple who became his adoptive parents.
Jenna's experience with CASA has taught her that by being there for a child you can create enormous and exciting changes in his life. "Kids like Jacob have been through so much," she says. "But there's still this wonderful spirit inside."
Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.
*Name has been changed.