May’s Volunteer Spotlight shines on Michael Bertram, who has served as a volunteer advocate for over 17 years. Michael is presently advocating for his 16th CASA child.
“CASA has enabled me to use my time and skills to help children and families in ways I could not do on my own,” Michael said. “The training CASA provided allowed me to turn good intentions into meaningful action. I have a great feeling of accomplishment when a child returns to or finds a new, safe home.”
Since being sworn in as a volunteer advocate in 1999, Michael has served 8 different families and supported sibling groups on their path to achieve safe, permanent, nurturing homes. His lengthiest case was open for almost 8 years, and culminated in adoption by a relative.
“Each case has taught me something… I have been able to advocate for children during a very difficult time in their life. Some were old enough to recognize that they had ‘someone in their corner,’ and appreciated a program like CASA,” Michael said.
He added that he feels his training and contact with CASA Case Supervisors has allowed him to effectively advocate on behalf of the best interests of numerous children. Case Supervisors have been able to offer additional, objective eyes on a given case.
“In Morristown, Michael was my go to person for my ‘tough’ cases. He did not hesitate to visit youths at the Detention Center or to drive to Jamesburg,” said Case Supervisor Debbie West. “He recently agreed to accept a Sussex case with an extremely difficult birth mom. Upon meeting the mother, he easily established rapport and was able to gain additional information concerning the youth. He is not easily intimidated by difficult personalities or gang membership.”
Michael noted the improvements he has seen in the lives of his CASA families, and the gratification that accompanies the knowledge he helped to create these positive outcomes.
“It is gratifying when a parent takes your advice (that they have already heard from a caseworker/ therapist) and makes changes that improve the life of the child,” Michael said. “I asked one mom if she thought it was fair to make her son live in a house with a drug addict. Her answer was, ‘when you put it that way, no.’ Within a week she had moved her drug using brother out of the house.”
Debbie added, “Michael is a longtime advocate who continues to spread the CASA mission and makes a profound impact on the youth he serves.”
Evidently, CASA holds an important place in Michael’s life. He said, “I think it is incumbent on everyone who can to help their community in some way. It not only improves the lives of others, but also improves your own.”
Thank you, Michael, for your dedication and sincere commitment to the CASA mission.