Sindy Finkelson

Sindy Finkelson postponed becoming a CASA volunteer for many years. Busy practicing law and raising two children, being an advocate was something she had long wanted to do, but felt she did not have the time.

After she left law to become an adjunct professor, Sindy contacted CASA of Atlantic and Cape May Counties (NJ) and took the 30-hour volunteer training. The long wait to become a CASA volunteer ended suddenly, when Sindy was immediately assigned her first case.

“It felt like it was just minutes after I finished the CASA training that I got the call, asking me if I would take my first case: a teenage girl who had just entered the foster care system. I was a little nervous about working with a teen. But the CASA staff convinced me that my experience raising two girls and being a college professor made me a great match. Basically I became Cynthia’s CASA because I couldn’t say no!”

That was three years ago. Today, Sindy and Cynthia, who is now 18 years old, talk openly about the challenges that they have faced — including identifying appropriate foster homes and obtaining counseling and other services for Cynthia. But when they first met, the flow of conversation was much different.

“The first time Sindy came to visit me, I didn’t even talk to her. I just sat on the couch and stared straight ahead,” says Cynthia. “I had been let down too much. I didn’t have any faith in people who were supposed to help me.”

Sindy says that it took a while to gain Cynthia’s trust. She did it by following through on what she said she would do, by listening, by pushing when necessary — and most importantly — by always being there.

“Cynthia knew that I would always pick up the phone: she could call me when she was in distress, she could call me to share good news,” says Sindy. “I think it is critical for children to be able to trust someone in their lives, someone who is not ever going to disappoint them. For Cynthia, I have been that person.”

Cynthia has also found permanent connections in her supportive foster mother, Vivian, and her extended family.

“Without Sindy and Vivian’s continuous support and motivation, I would not have succeeded at half of the things that I have today. I’d probably be living in a shelter — and feeling very alone.”

Instead, today, Cynthia is starting her second year of college. She’ll continue to live in foster care until she is 22, by which time she plans to have achieved a degree in communications and hopefully have studied abroad. Sindy and Cynthia acknowledge that they have come a long way — and they have a long way to go. But they plan to get there — together.