January 18, 2023
CASA Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Olivia Pacheco
Court Appointed Special Advocates are dedicated volunteers that go above and beyond for children in need in our community. They advocate for children to make sure they don’t get lost in an overburdened foster care system, and stay with the child on their case until they reach a safe, permanent home.
Each month, we’re spotlighting the incredible volunteers that make our mission a reality. To learn more about SCAN’s Alexandria/Arlington CASA program and how you can become a volunteer, visit scanva.org/casa.
This month meet Olivia Pacheco, a SCAN CASA volunteer that just joined our team as a CASA Case Supervisor!
Tell us about yourself
I’m from Northern Virginia. I have a daughter, no pets. I love traveling. I’ve gone to parts of Europe, South America, India, Africa, and need to make it to Australia next.
What brought you to SCAN’s CASA program?
One of my best friends pushed me toward CASA after I quit my corporate job and was looking for a new career path. I remember researching the program and feeling excited that I could get involved in this work without having to become an attorney. For me, it was a perfect fit because I could live the mission and have an impact on kids without having to go back to school.
What year did you become a CASA?
I joined SCAN’s CASA program in the spring of 2020.
It was at the height of the COVID pandemic, so I started CASA training in person, and then everything went virtual. For a lot of people in my class, this was our first experience doing this kind of work, so it was nice to have been able to be in person for some of the training to bounce ideas off one another and work through things we were nervous or worried about.
You started volunteering during the pandemic—what was that like?
My first case ended up being virtual, which was really hard because I had a 3-year-old and an 8-year-old who was on the autism spectrum. I remember it being really hard for them to be on a video chat and stay in one place long enough to talk. It took three months to really form any kind of relationship with them, so it was really challenging in the beginning.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being a CASA?
Making a difference, even if it’s as small as making someone smile that day.
Over the years, I’ve served on two cases, but the first one really stuck with me. I was able to earn the family’s trust, and I still have a relationship with that family, especially the mother. She still reaches out to me for help or advice to this day. It was a really rewarding, impactful connection to build.
Today you’re transitioning from a CASA volunteer to a Case Supervisor at SCAN—what’s that been like?
It’s a great fit for me, and it’s been a natural transition. The work that CASAs do can be hard, especially working directly with the families. Becoming a Supervisor has been a nice fit for me because I can have an even greater impact. Right now, I’m supervising 15 CASAs and 12 cases.
What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering as a CASA?
It’s more than volunteering. It really requires more of you than what you might expect in a typical volunteer role. It’s a really big commitment—it’s incredibly rewarding—but it’s a really big commitment. The stuff you’re dealing with can be heavy.
I always think back to my favorite Nelson Mandela quote, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” I think there is a lot we need to work on, and if you find you want to help, becoming a CASA is a start.