Children have a special place in the heart of Lesley Garafola so it seemed only natural for her to volunteer with the Custody Advocacy Program (CAP) of Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR).
Fourteen years and 25 CAP cases later, Garafola is helping lead the CAP trainings, and, even recruited several other people as CAP volunteers. As a volunteer custody advocate, Garafola investigates the circumstances surrounding difficult custody cases, assigned to CFCR by a Family Court judge. Garafola is paired with a CFCR staff attorney and volunteer attorney in each custody case.
“You have a team of people coming together to help influence the end result which, from my perspective, has always been positive for the child,” Garafola said. “At the end of the day, there may be heartache for the parents, but that is not who we work for. We work for the children. You hope all the work you did carries that child to success.”
Sometimes, the most memorable aspects of serving as a CAP volunteer do not always play out in court. Garafola was assigned to a custody case involving two children, ages 4 and 6, who had been taken out-of-state by their father without notifying the mother. Concerned about the children’s safety, CFCR was able to find the father and remove the children within 24 hours of their disappearance. The children were unharmed and reunited with their mother.
“I still get choked up talking about it,” Garafola said. “I remember the mother thanking us and getting hugs from those children. The children we work with in these cases, it is like they almost become your own children. You just want to hear their voices and know they are OK.”
For more information about CAP volunteer opportunities, contact Mary Schilli at 704-372-7961 or firstname.lastname@example.org.