Cleveland County CASA, Norman, OK

After retiring from successful careers in public service and raising five children, Chuck and Carolyn Lilly knew they still had more to give. An ad for the Cleveland County CASA program (OK) inspired them both to act on an idea that each of them had been considering.

Chuck and Carolyn Lilly have ensured that more than 50 children are living in safe, loving homes.

“I had been wanting to talk with Chuck about becoming a CASA volunteer ever since I retired from teaching,” says Carolyn. “I was debating how to introduce the idea. At the same time, Chuck was learning about CASA advocacy from a coworker who was a longtime volunteer.”

Together, Chuck and Carolyn decided that CASA work was for them.

They went through training together nine years ago. Since then, Carolyn and Chuck have worked on a total of 19 cases, helping 53 children find safe, permanent homes. They work on cases separately but benefit from each other’s insights and perspective.

A cherished success story

Chuck and Carolyn agree that the rewards of CASA volunteerism come from seeing the children’s smiles and from knowing that you are making a lasting difference in their lives. Chuck recalls one particularly successful outcome, when he helped to keep three siblings together and with a family they loved.

When Chuck was assigned to the case, the three sisters had been in the system for four years. They had lived in several foster and group homes and been assigned numerous DHS workers. As a result, the girls had a mild form of reactive attachment disorder and exhibited behaviors that made some potential foster and adoptive parents walk away.

After a potential adoption fell through, and the girls were left disappointed living in another group home, Chuck contacted a previous foster placement. The girls had thrived there, but the placement had been terminated when the father was diagnosed with cancer. Chuck asked whether the chemotherapy had concluded and the family would consider taking the children back into their lives—permanently. With no hesitation, they agreed. When the siblings were told that they would be returning to their beloved foster parents, they were elated. As Chuck describes, “If they had tails they would have wagged them!”

Today, they are smiling, happy, children, “Just about anything they can do, they do,” says Chuck. “Gymnastics, softball, choir…the parents encourage them. They are part of a loving family now. It is just wonderful.”

Next year, Chuck and Carolyn will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with the CASA program. Have there been challenges that make them question their commitment? Of course. But neither has any intention of leaving the program.

“I have gone out in the yard and kicked a few trees….but I’ve never thought about quitting,” says Carolyn.