CASA Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Milena RaketicEmily Hoak
“We are in a really special position to listen to and elevate the voices of children during what can be a challenging, confusing, and traumatic time in their lives.”
Milena Raketic completed her CASA volunteer training in August of 2020 and took her first case in October of the same year. She learned of CASA when she was in college working at an emergency shelter for teens, and knew this would be part of her work sometime in the future. She went on to say, “during quarantine last summer, I had extra time, and it seemed like the right time to get involved.”
When speaking about her role as a CASA, Milena said, “I am grateful for the chance to get to know the CASA children.” She further elaborated by saying, “I also enjoy getting to see how this part of the legal system works and to better understand the incredible work that so many people do for this population on a daily basis (DCS, providers, attorneys, CASA supervisors, the magistrate, etc.).”
According to Milena, “it takes time to build trust with children, and it’s incredible to feel like you’ve become an adult that they feel they can be honest with and count on to show up.” She continues to be part of the Porter County CASA Program because she “believes the work plays an essential role in the child welfare system overall and makes a difference in the lives of children.” Milena feels as if the population involved in the work as a CASA can get overlooked by both society and their own community. She often wonders, “who would do this work if not CASAs because the need (unfortunately!) does not go away.”
Milena is encouraged and hopeful by the fact that many people in Porter County and across the country choose to volunteer their time with CASA. Bringing awareness to the program has the potential to truly uplift children and families who are involved with the child welfare system.
As a policy research associate, Milena said, “I’ve been able to work on a few child welfare projects, and my CASA experience has been extremely helpful with grasping a lot of information on them (particularly on a project where I was part of a team who reviewed child abuse and neglect policies from state agencies across the country!).” Her company works at the intersection of data, methods, policy, and practice, allowing her to work on research projects for federal, state, local, and foundation clients. Every project is different, varying from support survey fielding for schools to support site visits at state offices that administer federal programs. Milena primarily works on projects in education, SNAP Employment and Training, and family support areas.
In her free time Milena enjoys playing tennis, doing yoga, reading, and baking. She added, “I also love listening to true crime podcasts.”
Milena would like to encourage anyone looking to serve their community to consider being a CASA. She said, “There are certainly days where you might wonder if you’re helping at all, but once you’ve built relationships with the children involved, you really feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.” Being a CASA “is challenging but fulfilling work” according to Milena, who doesn’t take the opportunity for granted.
Thank you, Milena!
In honor of Rose Butler who was a CASA volunteer, and who further supported the mission of CASA as a staff member supervising and mentoring many of our volunteers, we are featuring one CASA volunteer each month who is making a difference in the lives of children in Porter County.