Call them “Team CASA,” a unique and compassionate duo likened to a “Guardian Angel.”
They are Tom and Debbie Stewart, a Prince George’s County husband and wife who are the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for three foster children – brothers, ages 1, 8 and 13.
While each CASA is normally assigned one child, Debbie and Tom offered to serve together, advocating for siblings. CASA/Prince George’s County and the Court liked the idea and agreed to it.
“We’re a team,” Debbie said. “I’m the nurturing one, the administrative type.” Her activities include: writing court reports about the boys’ challenges and needs; helping their family track the oldest brother’s homework assignments online, and serving as a shoulder for them all to lean on.
“I’m ‘the male role model,’” said Tom. “The one who does fun stuff with them, like taking them to a batting cage, kayaking or to a Washington Redskins football game.” He also preaches that brothers must stick together and never fight with each other.
“They’re good kids,” Debbie said.
“The boys love their parents. And the parents love their boys,” said Tom. “The parents haven’t been able to step up and take care of their children, but they are trying to get their act together.”
While Tom has taken the lead in engaging the boys in athletic activities and the need to stick together, Debbie has been making sure that they do their homework and prepare for the future.
At Christmas, the 13-year-old gave Debbie a Christmas card that read: “Thank you for helping me do my homework.”
Debbie looked at the boy and said, “’Your grandmother made you write that.’”
“’No,’” the boy said. “’I wrote it on my own.’”
Like all CASAs, Tom and Debbie feel frustrated at times. But they are well positioned to deal with it. As Tom puts it, “One of the biggest advantages of being a team, is that we support each other.”
Regardless of any rough spots, they feel appreciated, particularly by the grandmother, who works two jobs between caring for the three boys.
“She tells us that we are her ‘Guardian Angel,’” Debbie said.
Ann Marie Binsner, Executive Director of CASA/Prince George’s County, said, “Tom and Debbie are highly effective CASAs. They care about the brothers, and it shows. The boys love them. The family loves them. We could use more ‘Guardian Angels’ like them.”