Sometimes we describe the CASA movement as a big “family,” but it’s not often we see a CASA family quite like this! Jannah Nerren was first sworn in as a CASA volunteer with CASA of the Pines 12 years ago. Over the years, her mother Brenda and her daughter Claire have joined her as advocates—Brenda with CASA of the Pines and Claire with Dallas CASA—spreading the CASA mission across three generations!
“I was the first in the family to become a CASA volunteer, and they could hear me talk about it,” Jannah said. “I think it’s just really heartwarming to know that my experiences were able to influence them to want to become CASA volunteers, because that’s more children that can have someone in their lives to serve as a voice. It’s really neat to know that it’s had a ripple effect.”
Jannah’s love of working with children stems in large part from her career. A former schoolteacher and professor, Jannah worked in the College of Education at Stephen F. Austin State University for 16 years. Today, she’s the Associate Dean in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University. Throughout her time mentoring future teachers, she’s made the point to emphasize the importance of being aware of the unique needs of every child in the classroom. After seeing articles in her local newspaper about the work of CASA, she knew it would be a perfect volunteer role for her.
“I’ve just always have had a heart for children, and especially children that need support,” Jannah said. “I reached out to the local CASA office, and inquired about the training and what it takes to be a CASA volunteer and what all that means, and just took advantage of that opportunity.”
One of her favorite memories is a case involving a sibling group of four. The youngest three siblings were adopted together by a foster family. She continued advocating for the oldest brother—fiercely dedicated to finding him permanency—until she saw him happily reunified with his grandparents. All in all, she was on the siblings’ case over five years. She stays in touch with them, and they’re all doing well.
“It was beautiful to see the first three adopted, but it put some pressure on, because the eldest child was not adopted,” Jannah said. “So I continued to serve as his CASA volunteer, and then he was reunified with his grandparents. That was a really beautiful day.”
Jannah’s mother, Brenda, decided to become a volunteer at CASA of the Pines after hearing her daughter’s stories and seeing her passion for giving back to the community. As of today, Brenda has been a CASA volunteer for 10 years.
Jannah has been supporting Brenda all throughout her CASA journey by being a sounding board for her, especially during the toughest times in her case. The two have also share resources and recommendations. When Brenda was looking for a suitable placement for the child she was serving, Jannah was able to recommend a residential treatment center that had made a positive difference for a child on one of her cases.
Jannah’s influence didn’t stop with her mother—her daughter Claire observed years of Jannah’s dedicated advocacy. She just completed her pre-service training and was sworn in as a Dallas CASA volunteer in mid-May.
Jannah feels that CASA has given the three of them an even deeper common ground and purpose. Jannah works in education, Claire works in health care and Brenda is retired. But no matter how different their day-to-day lives look, CASA is something that ties them together.
“I think it’s wonderful that three generations had the heart for wanting to give back to their community for one thing, but also for the love of the children,” Brenda said.
Have you been thinking about volunteering with CASA? Here’s what Jannah has to say.
“Oh, my goodness, I would say do it! Definitely explore the opportunity,” she said. “If you have time in your life to go through the training—even if you’re unsure about taking a case—go through the training, and you’ll learn so much about what all it means to be a CASA volunteer. And I would just say take the risk, because there will always be children who need caring adults to volunteer.”
Still not sure about taking that first step? Bring a friend, partner, or family member along! Some CASA programs even allow two people to formally volunteer together on one case. You’ll also have the support of a CASA staff member throughout the duration of your case. You can learn more about what it means to become an advocate, and contact your local CASA program, at www.BecomeACASA.org.
Every child has a chance—it’s you! ®