What Do Our Volunteers Do?

Erin O'Bryan Executive Director Children's Rights Council of NW Ohio 419-473-8955

Erin O’Bryan
Executive Director
Children’s Rights Council of NW Ohio
419-473-8955

I came to Children’s Rights Council as a volunteer not really knowing what CRC did exactly. I was introduced to them via my volunteering as a CASA. CRC’s Executive Director, Margaret Wuwert, was there to testify about how a dad on one of my cases was doing with visitation at CRC. Margaret was a formidable woman that day, and I knew pretty quick I wanted to learn more. At first I just offered to volunteer my website design services and that worked for a while, then I was asked by Margaret to be on the board. I’d never been on a board before but I knew I wanted to know even more. My first board meeting was interesting but I knew I couldn’t serve if I didn’t know exactly what goes on. Next thing I knew I was signing up to volunteer. Volunteering for kids was my favorite thing of all, so it just seemed natural.

That first night I volunteered seemed like controlled chaos, all those kids coming in. Parent’s lining up to sign in their children, the goodbyes, sometimes the tears from parents and kids on the faces of the new visitors. It has to be a scary thing to leave your child somewhere, knowing they are going to meet with the other parent, knowing for whatever reason the line of communication has broken down and that’s why they are there. The custodial parents leave and it’s just the kids and the volunteers. The volunteers know right away who their family is and their time starts as soon as the family arrives. Volunteers are given a clipboard with the form needed to write their notes.

Soon the non-custodial parent arrives. The first thing they all do is look around for their child(ren), sometimes there are hugs and kisses right away, sometimes there is shyness and sometimes there are tears from parents and children. Parents sign in and off they go with their child(ren) and the volunteer to an assigned room. Usually the first couple minutes are a little awkward but family time starts right up. The volunteer finds a chair and sits off to the side of where the family sits. CRC encourages parents to bring a meal, it’s a good way to sit, relax and talk about things over a meal. Volunteers keep track of food eaten; if there is a problem later with illness or reaction. The family goes about their visit, they talk, they eat, they play games, some kids sit and never speak, some immediately confront their parents. It’s almost always different in some way. Volunteers sit back and write. What the family is doing, what if anything inappropriate or important is said. No emotion in those notes, volunteers are neutral. We can’t say what we think only what we see or hear and see. And so it goes, for 1 hour, 2 hours or 3. Sometimes it’s boring, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the families go down to the gym and play a little basketball, or visit the playground or the game room.

When the visits finished the volunteer is not. Children go back to the room they started out in, they say their goodbyes, very much like the beginning there are hugs and kisses, tears or no response at all. Volunteers continue to watch and write if necessary. Sometimes the most important thing is what is said by the kids after the visit and before the other parent arrives. When the child leaves, the notes are turned in and the volunteers time is finished. This is the moment of truth for me as the Executive Director. Did the visit go ok, is the volunteer ok, will the volunteer come back.

As you can see volunteers for us are the most important thing we have and always need. Want to give it a try? Go to our Volunteer page and fill out the form, try it and see if you feel you can do this. It’s so important what you would be doing. I hope I get to meet you soon.

~Erin

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