Miss Glendale’s Outstanding Teen 2017, Dimon Sanders, shares her story of hope, and how the help of a CASA volunteer changed her life.
I was placed in the foster care system June of 2008 due to abuse by my bio dad and neglect by my bio mom. When I was placed in the system, I felt betrayed. I was lonely, sad, angry and depressed. I felt the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I felt like I had just been thrown away by my own family. These emotions caused me to give up on being happy. I was moved around from home to home because I had a lot of behavioral issues. In each house that I entered I tried to push the boundaries. I would push each group home or foster parent because I wanted to see if they would give up on me. I was in 13 foster homes all together. After a few months in foster care, I was given a CASA.
While in the system, I had 35 people in and out of my life. My CASA was the one consistent person that I could always count on to be there for me. She kept me motivated to stay in school, get good grades, and advised me to just be myself and be comfortable with me.
My fifth year in the system, I was involved in the National Society of BlackEngineers (NSBE) Jr. My adopted mom volunteered at the school I attended and learned of my story. When I found out she wanted to adopt me, I was afraid of getting hurt because I had failed adoptions before. I was officially adopted October 22, 2014. I came into the home with a lot of issues. My CASA again proved invaluable as she was able to give my adoptive parents insight into my behaviors. She was the only person who truly knew my story from having been there to support me through it. Reading a case file and seeing someone once a month does not have the same impact as a person who weathered the storms with you.
I came into the system with low self-esteem and low confidence in myself. My mom and I found the Miss America organization and it has helped boost my self-esteem and confidence. I am Miss Glendale’s Outstanding Teen. June 20-24th I will be competing to become Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen. In the organization, you must have a platform or a cause that’s important. My platform is Hope for Children in Foster Care. One mechanism I use for creating hope is working to ensure all kids have a CASA. I was so inspired by the time, support, dedication sweat, and tears that my CASA gave me.
I want every child or teen in foster care and every adult in Maricopa County to know what’s possible when a CASA stands by the side of a child who needs it most. It’s important to know that a few hours a month will change a child’s life. It changed mine. I would have given up a long time ago had it not been for the impact that my CASA had on me. She helped make those birthdays seem a little less painful and forgotten. She helped the holidays be a little more bearable and less lonely. She helped my adoptive parents understand me. I’ve come so far because someone took the time to volunteer in this way. There’s hope, both for kids in care and for adults who step up to give a child a voice.
Written by Dimon Sanders, Miss Glendale’s Outstanding Teen 2017
Photography by Brenna Heater Photography