Back in my journalism days, I worked with a brilliant young writer named Fred. He had completed a couple of tours in Iraq as a military photographer. The few unclassified images he shared with us were harrowing.
Fred came back with more than photographs, however. He also returned with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He warned us about it, but we didn’t pay much mind. He was just Fred, one of us, and he seemed okay. One day, however, someone popped a balloon at a company picnic. That’s when we saw his PTSD. He screamed and dove to the floor. He was so rattled by the explosion-like noise that I let him go home early.
Not every stressful encounter entails mortar shells and IEDs, of course. Nor does every symptom manifest itself as alarmingly as Fred’s. But odds are, as CASA supervisors and volunteers, we encounter PTSD routinely in our work.
PTSD in children comes from a wide range of deficiencies. Children who face deprivation of food may steal. Girls and boys who don’t get enough parental love, may lash out at others, animals, or even themselves. You can watch them flinch when a grown-up raises a voice in anger, too quickly lifts an arm, or tries to sit too close.
If your CASA child exhibits behaviors you don’t understand, try to find out more about what may have caused them. Explore the source of the stress—the causal trauma—and talk to others about how you can help him or her.
In a way, it’s all a war, a fight for the well-being of our CASA kids. The enemy has had them long enough. Understanding the arsenal used against them, disarming it and fostering recovery is how CASA volunteers—and your CASA children—can win.