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Breaking a Cycle

Barb Nuck, a 2023 Darlene Kamine Advocate of the Year

Barb Nuck is a CASA Volunteer of five and a half years, who has served 11 children in four separate cases. Barb is a great listener and a thoughtful advocate – always working to connect with our kids and bridge the gap between caregivers and resources.

On top of her work as a CASA Volunteer, Barb works with ProKids monthly, distributing diapers and menstrual products to her fellow advocates to be delivered to ProKids children.

For one sibling set – two little girls caught in a custody dispute with child protection issues – Barb was an exceptional support. The case began when the father filed for custody of “Tia” and “Cassy,” whose mom had substance abuse and mental health issues that meant she couldn’t care for the children.

According to the CASA Manager on the case, Anna, Barb never missed a beat, making visits, recommendations, and connecting the children to resources – like clothing at the start of their school year.

Barb remembers meeting the girls vividly – seeing their friendly nature and their eagerness to make Barb a part of their world. She saw the hugs the girls shared with their father and the attention and respect they gave him. But she also saw them laugh when he’d give directions during Barb’s visits. Despite a firm tone, when he told them to take turns with their stories or to not climb on Barb, they didn’t feel threatened… That was just one of the ways Barb saw these sisters were loved and cared for.

“I have always admired the way that Barb walks into homes and sees the strengths that are present,” Anna said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s not a bed for dad. If there are appropriate beds for the kids, and dad sleeps on the couch, great. She sees a stable apartment with a place for all to sleep. If there are toys in a mess on the floor, she sees the kids have access to play. While Barb is alert to dangers that exist, she sees the good in situations.”

Barb is also extremely giving of her time and energy – so when the girls’ half siblings came into the system, she didn’t hesitate to add them to her caseload. For that one family, she’d be visiting three separate placements and supporting five different children.

By the end of the case, after putting in great effort, taking fatherhood classes, and rearranging his life to prioritize his daughters, dad received custody. According to Barb, it was the best outcome for Tia and Cassy. The other three children were placed in their own safe and supportive homes – living with two of mom’s cousins.

According to Barb, every child she has served has been special. Looking back, she said, each one had inconsistent upbringings and issues that stemmed from that. But when guided to a safe environment, Barb often saw those issues melt away. As a child felt more comfortable, they’d find a routine. They’d do better in school. They’d have fewer behavioral problems. And knowing where they’d sleep at the end of the day, they’d feel at ease.

Fundamentally, Barb sees the CASA role as being one that helps breaks a cycle.

Often, the parents of her kids grew up in the system themselves. By ensuring their kids have a supportive network in place, a safe and stable home to rest their heads, she is working to change their trajectories… And for Barb, it’s rewarding work.

“It’s difficult at times, but it’s meaningful, and that overrides any difficulty,” Barb said.

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