CASA State Office Update
A roundup of important news and information from CASA of Arizona
CASA Manager News
I hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful fall changes in Arizona!
It has been a few months since our last issue of IMPACT in May. There have been some changes at the state office since then and we have hired both, a new Marketing and Outreach Specialist and a new CASA Trainer. We are excited about the arrival of Kayla Fulmer and Lori Heredia at CASA of Arizona to assist with community outreach and training efforts which keep us busy moving the statewide program forward. You will read more about Kayla and Lori in this issue.
We closed FY13 and welcomed FY14 with a bang—our numbers of CASAs statewide have shown an increase in numbers as well as in the diversity of volunteers statewide. CASA staff state wide have been busy recruiting and bringing more advocates into the program so we can better respond to the 14,000+ children that are currently in the CPS system. The CASA state office has also been reaching out to the community with targeted recruitment in both the African-American and Hispanic communities in order to continue to increase our diverse volunteer base and to address one of the goals in the Courts Justice 20-20 Plan, to diversify the Court’s volunteer base so we can better represent the diversity of the children we serve. In the Justice 20-20 Plan, the Court also has outlined a goal for all Court volunteers to be trained in diversity and disparity issues. The community outreach work that CASA of Arizona has been doing, coupled with the work of each county in support of these goals have made a significant difference!
In June, CASA of Arizona participated at the Juneteenth Celebration and also set up a display table at the Women’s Expo event held at First Institutional Baptist Church. We presented to Temple Soleil in Paradise Valley and recently, we have made extensive efforts to engage the Hispanic community in outreach events such as Garibaldi Night in Chandler, the Tempe Tardeada, and by entering the Altar Contest at the Mesa Arts Center where an altar was dedicated to the voice of children in foster care that still wait for a permanent home. All of these events and others, have been supported by wonderful CASA advocates who have joined us in these community efforts. We continue to learn much from the CASAs who sit with us at these events and we continue to be in awe of the strong commitment of our CASA volunteers statewide to the children they serve and to their community. In this edition of IMPACT, you will see pictures of some of them at these events.
The CASA State Training Academy has added a piece on Emotional Intelligence in the 2 day training presented by none other than Dr. Skip Pollock who for years, has participated in the training academy supporting our efforts and also who has served as a CASA volunteer. CASA continues to explore ways in which we can use new technology to provide training and increase our volunteer base.
CASA of Arizona is supporting our county CASA programs in their celebratory events for Adoption Day across the state. Congratulations to any of you who are somehow touched or are involved in the final phase of an adoption for a child in care—providing a child with a fundamental right to have a family that they can call their own!
Will check in with you again soon!
Leticia D'Amore, MSW
CASA State Manager
Updates from National, State, County and Local Programs.
Meet Your New State Office Staff
Kayla Fulmer joined CASA of Arizona in August 2013 as the new Marketing and Outreach Specialist. Prior to CASA, Kayla worked as the Marketing and Outreach Specialist at Devereux Arizona, a behavioral health and foster parent licensing agency. In her previous role, Kayla was responsible for the recruitment and retention of foster parents, the coordination and implementation of comprehensive community outreach strategies, and increasing awareness of Devereux services throughout the state. Kayla brings with her to CASA a strong background in community collaboration and a sincere passion for the social service sector. In her free time, Kayla enjoys traveling with her boyfriend, spending time with her two nieces, and learning to cook.
Lori Heredia joined CASA of Arizona in September 2013 as the new Training Specialist. Before coming to Phoenix to join the CASA team, Lori lived in Yuma for 33 years where her work experience includes the Department of Defense, municipal government, secondary education, and workforce development. Lori has graduate degrees in English and Administration, as well as a graduate certificate in professional writing and is a certified career coach. Her favorite work tasks include training and coaching transitioning veterans, writing, editing, curriculum development, adult training and instruction, coaching, and program administration. When she is not working, Lori enjoys spending time with her husband and three grown children. She is a devoted Sun Devil fan and alum, and loves college football and baseball, walking/hiking, and writing.
CASA of Arizona Joins Gap Closing Collaborative
On August 28th, CASA of Arizona joined its community partners to witness the signing of the Gap Closing Collaborative Project Charter. This statement solidified the historic commitment of community organizations to work together to reduce the disproportionality of African American children in the Child Welfare System in Maricopa County. This collaboration includes state, faith-based, and philanthropic organizations, as well as child welfare and child advocacy organizations in Maricopa County. Senior leadership of the founding organizations for this initiative were present and included Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, First Institutional Baptist Church, Arizona Department of Economic Security, Casey Family Programs, and the Arizona Community Foundation.
Notes from National CASA
Save the Date: 2014 National CASA Annual Conference
Mark Your Calendars
Foster Children Find Permanency on National Adoption Day
On November 23rd, courts and communities throughout the country will join together for the 14th Annual National Adoption Day. They will be finalizing adoptions of foster children and raising awareness of the 408,000 children in care that are awaiting permanent, loving families. For information on a National Adoption Day celebration in your area, or to register your event, click here.
Registration Now Open for Arizona Summit on Volunteerism and Service Learning
The 2013 Arizona Summit on Volunteerism and Service Learning will take place on December 6th and 7th at ASU West. This Summit will provide an opportunity for leaders to come together to strengthen their abilities and to learn new skills to better meet important community needs in Arizona. Registration is now open, and more information can be found here.
Spotlight on amazing Staff, Volunteers and Supporters.
Employee Spotlight: Myla Smith
It was a fascinating journey that brought CASA of Yavapai County Coordinator, Myla Smith to Prescott. After spending 15 years living in Alaska where she trained with the Naval Reserves, earned her pilot's license, and ran a remote fishing lodge with her husband, Myla returned to Arizona where she settled in Prescott. It was there that she discovered the CASA Support Staff position, as well as her motivation to join the quest to help abused and neglected children.
Nine years later, Myla earned the position of Coordinator with the CASA Program in Yavapai County, and possesses a sincere love for her job and role in the community. "I've never been exposed to so many genuinely caring people in my life. As a Coordinator I can truly say that I enjoy every aspect, from the interview to assigning the 'right' person to the 'right' case and everything in between," says Myla.
Myla feels that her community as a whole defines the work she does in the CASA program. "We have so many kids who are growing up afraid, hungry, hurt, and lost...and so many adults who want to do something to help. Those kids and those adults are our community, just putting them together is my small part," she says.
As humble as she may be, there is no question as to the impact of Myla's work on children in her community. She shares, "I might sound odd but there have been times that I see a case and am moved to talk to a particular volunteer about taking it, it's something bigger than me that put the two together. When that happens, the volunteer and I both know they are meant to help this child and the results are profound."
When she is not busy performing her CASA work, Myla enjoys taking pictures, scrapbooking, serving on the Board of her neighborhood, and travelling to Globe to visit her family.
Collaboration at its Finest
Submitted by Kirk Grugel, CASA of Navajo County
A few weeks ago there was a horrific car accident on Interstate 40 outside of Winslow which is in Navajo County. The mother was killed instantly. Of the 4 children in the car one of them suffered some pretty serious injuries and was airlifted to Flagstaff Medical Center which of course is in our neighboring county, Coconino.
A dependency was filed in Navajo County as a result of the loss of parent. Generally, CASA of Navajo County is unable to serve these children because they are 100 miles from the nearest Navajo County volunteer.
I had a call from the CPS unit supervisor asking for help as the child had grandparents come to town but had pretty full hands dealing with the other 3 surviving children. They asked for someone to sit with the hospitalized child and the other children who were all grieving over their loss.
I called my peer coordinator Kathy Meadows from Coconino County and asked for some manpower. She readily agreed and sent an email to some of her special CASA's enlisting their help.
I was staggered by the response from the Coconino County CASA's and with Kathy's assistance of circling the wagons around this family.
The heart of one CASA in particular, Patricia Horn was grabbed. She asked if she could be assigned this case as a courtesy CASA. Recently Kathy and Patricia came to Navajo County for a court hearing on the case. I was able to introduce them and thank them with our presiding judge.
Pictured above (from left to right) is Navajo County Presiding Judge Michala Ruechel, Patricia Horn, Kathy Meadows, and Kirk Grugel presenting Patricia Horn with a CASA portfolio as a small token of gratitude.
I have lent other counties borrow my CASA's in the past when needed. It is wonderful to feel the reciprocation. Volunteering is truly health food for the soul....
CASA Volunteer Receives East Valley NAACP Award
Congratulations to Maricopa CASA Volunteer Sundra Wilkins on being recognized as a 2013 Awardee of the East Valley NAACP. Sgt. Wilkins was honored at the organization's Annual Freedom Fund Gala on Friday, October 4th. Way to go Sundra! We're proud to have you on our team!
CASA Volunteer Insight: Is it Worth the Effort?
Submitted by Donna McBride, Pinal County Juvenile Court Services
CASA Volunteer Georgene Carruthers recently shared the following insight as a CASA with Coordinator Pam Burke. It was just too good not to share!
Is it worth the effort, the concern, the time consuming reports, the volunteer training hours, the disappointments, the last minute meetings, the non returned phone calls, the miles driven, the sleepless nights, the hours sitting in the room court, etc. ?
In August 2011, I took a case with a 4 year old girl who was living in foster care. The mother passed away and the father began his quest for custody after being released from prison. Even with resources and numerous opportunities to prove himself, he fell short. After 1 year in care, the judge ordered visitation to be stopped. A severance trial was set and 8 long hours later parental rights were severed with adoption planned with the foster family that protected this little girl for 19 months. Best day in court ever!
Now, for the rest of the story: This little girl had chosen her new name and wanted to start 2nd grade being proud of who she had become. She wrote a letter and I was able to deliver to the judge who read it in court. This new name would be a new beginning and hopefully help put some of her past behind her. No child should experience the pain this little girl has gone through. The judge agreed and gave the powers to be 30 days to make it happen. Also, this beautiful little girl had the permission of the court to enroll in school using her new name even though the final adoption many not be completed before school started. Second best day in court ever! Worth the effort? ABSOLUTELY!
CASA of Arizona thanks Georgene for her outstanding work as a volunteer and her commitment to her CASA child! Know an amazing volunteer? Let us know by e-mailing [email protected].
Special Thanks to the Arizona Lottery
Arizona Lottery Donates Additional Funds for CASA Volunteer Recognition
CASA of Arizona would like to extend a very special thank you to our friends at the Arizona Lottery. In addition to their ongoing fiscal support, they have generously offered additional funds for each county program to provide Volunteer Recognition events. The CASA program truly could not function without the support of the Arizona Lottery, and we sincerely thank them for their continued support and contribution.
Training & Resources
Friendly Reminders for CASA Volunteers:
Information for Older Youth Transitioning Out of Care
Some volunteers have expressed concern that older youth on their cases are not being informed about services and programming available to them as they approach 18. In response to this issue, DES has offered to assist with any case questions, review situations, and provide direction and education as needed. You can reach them via their program mailbox at [email protected], or through Barbara Guillen directly at [email protected].
Updates, summaries and articles.
Interview with Hon. Peter J. Cahill
By Kayla Fulmer, Marketing and Outreach Specialist
If there's anyone out there who can truly recognize the impact of a CASA volunteer on a case, it's Judge Peter Cahill. Cahill is the Presiding Judge and Presiding Juvenile Judge of Gila County Superior Court. As the 25th Anniversary for the CASA Program in Gila County quickly approaches, Cahill can still vividly recall how differently cases were handled before the program's inception.
Back in 1978, Cahill represented a woman who after revoking her consent to adopt fought DES' efforts to sever her parental rights. After over six dedicated years of navigating the complex roles and facts of the case, including two trips to the Arizona Supreme Court, Cahill and the attorney for the foster mother resolved the case with an "open adoption." But Cahill knows that the presence of a CASA may have changed everything.
"This case was a 'train wreck' but there was no CASA to bring any of the problems to the judge's attention," says Cahill.
"People suffered as a result of this, the foster child and the mother...and I knew that if we had somebody who was a special advocate, someone to tell the court about these things, that April's case would have turned out differently," he says.
In 1984, Cahill learned about the CASA program at the State Bar Convention, and immediately knew it is what Arizona needed. The CASA Program of Gila County was created shortly thereafter in 1988, and continues to advocate for abused and neglected children every day.
Cahill's role as Presiding Judge has a great amount of influence on the communities throughout Gila County, and he does not take this responsibility lightly. Aside from overseeing everything in the judicial branch, from superior court to limited jurisdiction, Cahill also has the responsibility of managing juvenile delinquency, dependency, and severance cases. It is this facet of his position that Cahill says is most important, he insists these are "our most important cases."
While Cahill regularly sits on juvenile delinquency cases, he notes a significant connection among delinquent children and their status as dependent children, even if not yet realized. Knowing that dependency factors are a primary risk for delinquency, Cahill makes it a priority to aggressively determine if a delinquent child needs to be further investigated to verify if dependency issues are present.
Cahill also has a special challenge in his position, as Gila County contains two vastly different major cities, Payson and Globe. Cahill says that each possess unique strengths that positively impact the outcomes of children in care.
"In Globe and Miami, we are especially proud of the fact that we take care of our own, we take care of our families," he shares. "We have many big, spread out, extended families, and that often creates an opportunity for a family placement."
In Payson, different demographics offer additional advantages. There, Cahill says there are often people who have an extraordinary amount of education and work experience that directly relate to the responsibilities of a CASA.
Cahill shared another distinctive attribute of Gila County that affects its dependency cases: the "Terrific Teens" program. This program was developed as a mirror concept of "Best for Babies" but addresses older youth to help increase understanding of the unique barriers and challenges that 15 to 18 year olds often face.
Cahill acknowledges that the system is complex, and far from ideal, but he doesn't let this discourage him from the vital work he does in the community. He also knows that the role of a CASA is an enormously important one in performing this work. "CASA volunteers are not just an advocate. They are a special advocate that advises the judge whether everybody is doing what they're supposed to, and that things are moving along on the right track as they should," he says.
"In these cases everybody works hard, but you know who works the hardest. It's the CASA volunteers that drive hundreds of miles to see these kids. They're the most amazing people," says Cahill.
Over two decades later, Cahill reflects on the impact of the changes the system has made since his case in 1976. "I'm so proud of our system, even with its flaws," he says.
"We have experienced lawyers, well trained judges, the assistance of CASA volunteers, and time standards that protect everyone's rights and get cases resolved for the benefit of families, and especially children."
Cahill shared another positive development that has emerged since working that case in 1976. The attorney of the foster mother with whom he so diligently worked with, is now his wife. Although she's now retired, Judge Terry Chandler also was a juvenile court judge. The Juvenile Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona awards the Terry L. Chandler Award for excellence in the field of juvenile law.
Cahill also serves as the Chair of the Supreme Court's Committee on Juvenile Courts where he reviews policies that affect juveniles in dependency and delinquency. In his free time, Cahill enjoys traveling with his wife, spending time at his second home in Maine, and enjoying his five grandchildren.
ARIZONA INFORMANT: "SAVING OUR CHILDREN" SERIES
The Arizona Informant Newspaper has generously partnered with CASA of Arizona to publish a year long series of articles addressing the struggles of African American children in care, as well as showcase the local leaders that are spearheading the efforts to help them. Special thanks to the Arizona Informant for their commitment and dedication to making a difference in the lives of these children. Check out the latest installment of the "Saving Our Children" series printed in the Arizona Informant below.
As Arizona continues to experience an alarming increase in the number of abused and neglected children entering the foster care system, an equally disturbing trend has emerged. Older youth continue to age out of the system exactly as they entered it, without a permanent family and with limited or little support systems.
Thanks to Pinal County resident Edward Mouchette, this was not the case for Michael, 20, and Rassheed, 22. Michael and Rassheed were both adopted as teens from the foster care system by Mouchette. They are two of the seven children that Mouchette has legally adopted in the past 13 years.
Before meeting Mouchette, Michael lived in a residential programming facility where Mouchette happened to work. "I remember laying in my bunk at night, thinking I was going to age out of the system," Michael says. But that instantly changed when Mouchette and Michael met. "He was the only one that really cared...he would actually sit down and talk to me about my life." Shortly thereafter, Michael became Mouchette's first adopted child.
It wasn't long until Rassheed also met Mouchette. He was 15 years old and living in a group home, and had attended 13 schools between sixth and twelfth grade. "It was grueling growing up without a family around. You have to grow up fast," says Rassheed.
"People would promise a lot of things, but then they would never come through," he recalls. Once adopted by Mouchette, Rassheed felt that "finding permanency was a blessing from God."
There are several barriers youth face as they transition into adulthood. "There are all these caseworkers and people that show you support for the time being, but foster kids need someone who is always going to be there," says Michael. Rassheed recalls that only a "handful" of teens he knew in foster care came out with a "good head" on their shoulders. "I knew I had an opportunity that others didn't," he says.
In addition to the normal struggles of adapting to adulthood, foster youth also may struggle with mental health issues and all the other developmental issues that go along with being a young adult.
In response to these common challenges, The Department of Economic Security has employed many options and opportunities for youth as they transition to adulthood. Youth are encouraged to stay "in care" on a voluntary basis until their 21st birthday. Eligible youth can participate in the Independent Living (IL) subsidy program.
Youth who are in care on their 18th birthday have the opportunity to continue their health insurance through the Young Adult Transitional Insurance, through AHCCCS. They also receive supportive case management and a monthly living stipend to help them learn to be independent and receive training in living skills such as budgeting, meal planning, and getting a job.
Youth who are in care at age 16 and older are eligible for Educational and Training Vouchers (ETV) which is financial assistance up to $5,000 a year to help pay the cost of post-secondary education and training programs.
For youth who choose not to stay in care between 18 and 21, the state offers aftercare services. These are short term services to help youth achieve goals towards their independence. Also known as the Transitional Independent Living Program (TILP), these services are available to legal residents of Arizona age 18-21 who were in any State or Tribal foster care system at age 16 or older.
These youth who were formerly in the foster care system typically are living on their own, and no longer have an open service case with CPS or with another state's foster care program. TILP services are delivered through community based providers who assist youth to develop an individualized service plan.
The service plan must identify goals specific to employment, education, life skills and other areas necessary for self-sufficiency. Some financial support is available to assist youth pursue education, employment, and therapeutic services.
Deidre Calcoate, who runs adoption and foster-care recruitment for DES, emphasizes the importance of knowing that older youth in care are just like every other 16 to 21 year old in the community.
"Sometimes they can come across as difficult, but that is only because they are trying to navigate this very difficult world on their own," she says. "They are not in foster care because they are 'bad kids' but because their parents were unable to parent them for whatever reason. They want to be independent but they still need love and caring and guidance."
Although his family is now complete, Mouchette knows that his commitment is a lifelong responsibility. "Parenting doesn't stop at 18. That's when they need it the most. When they walk out that door, they are on their own. You have to make sure and leave it open for them."
There is no shortage of opportunities for the local community to assist these youth. After spending several years as a foster and adoptive parent, where he fostered over 100 children, Mouchette is now retired and volunteers his time as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
As a CASA volunteer, Mouchette gets to know the foster children and the various people in their life, then uses that information to inform judges of the needs of the child and what will be the best permanent home for them.
When asked what he thought of his father advocating for foster kids as a CASA volunteer, Rassheed proudly says "I think it's pretty cool...I wish all of the other foster care workers could be more like my dad."
Calcoate shares some other ways that the community can help. "Our youth need mentors and dedicated adults who are willing to be a lifelong support to help youth navigate all areas of their life. Community members can become very involved by becoming mentors or foster parents. They may also support youth by offering volunteer opportunities that may enable young persons from the foster care system to learn a life-skill or a trade."
Now young adults, Rassheed and Michael continue to seize the opportunities they've been given and work hard to make their father proud. "I'm becoming a better person," Rassheed says. "Things from the past come up all the time, but you have to take it one day at a time. Before you know it, you look back and you've succeeded."
Michael now supports himself by working full time at a dairy farm, and he looks forward to the day that he can have his own family. "I'm never going to put my kids through what I've been through. And I thank my dad for that. Everyone else would have given up on us. I don't know where I'd be without him."
With a smile on his face, Rassheed immediately agrees, "He's a one in a million kind of man."
County Highlights & Happenings! CHECK OUT each County's website for the most up-to-date information! CLICK HERE to select a County Website, then click on News & Events.
Stories from county programs.
Local Community Partners with CASA of La Paz County to Celebrate Dreams for Foster Youth
Community members joined forces with CASA of La Paz County to showcase their hopes and dreams for youth in foster care, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech on August 28th. Pictured from left to right: Melissa Wright (Director of Community Relations for Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment), Jeannie Smith (Library Tech for the Parker Library) and Lillian Miller (foster parent).
CASA of Cochise County Attends Douglas Care Fair
CASA Volunteers from Cochise County attended the Douglas Care Fair on August 10th to spread the word about the CASA Program! Photos from CASA Volunteer Jennifer Rein.
CASA of Arizona Wants to Hear From You!
The State Office would like to know what you think! Click the DROP BOX and share your thoughts about the CASA program. You can remain anonymous, or you can give us your information so we may contact you to find out more or to simply say "thank you!" We look forward to hearing from you!
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