ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook: “Along with ProKids CASA Managers and attorneys, I have the joy of seeing CASAs’ energy, imagination, and commitment: the energy to become a CASA and take action on behalf of our children, the imagination of a better life for our children, and the commitment to see things through, no matter how difficult,” Cook said. One example, “Carmen’s commitment to K.J. through her life and beyond.”
As a registered nurse, Carmen Schrand had a particular goal at ProKids: she wanted to serve as an advocate for children who have medical needs.
In her five years as a CASA Volunteer, she has served 7 children in 4 families. One of them was K.J. Carmen met her when she was 13. She had a history of “running wild” in her grandmother’s care. Her father had died and her mother was in jail.
Her medical diagnosis was brand new: she had Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disorder that breaks down the nerve cells in the brain and is rarely seen in children and can cause erratic behavior.
K.J. had little family support. Her mother’s parental rights were terminated. Her grandmother couldn’t handle her erratic behavior. Carmen knew K.J. needed a stable placement and the right services as soon as possible.
Carmen advocated for K.J. through a succession of care facilities. Finally she found one that not only met K.J.’s needs as a teenager who loved Beyonce and nail polish, but also could get her to school as much as possible.
With a lot of support, and Carmen’s advocacy, K.J. got her high school diploma. By then, she needed a custom wheelchair and a feeding tube for nutrition. She could no longer speak.
One day this past summer, Carmen ended their visit as usual with “I love you” and a hug. K.J. died in her sleep a week later.
She was 19.
Carmen was the person who made sure K.J. got every service she needed. And as the person who knew her best, Carmen gave the eulogy at K.J.’s funeral and said: “She wasn’t always easy to help but she was always easy to love. As her body weakened, her spark never did.”