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Senator Mary Landrieu Elected to National CASA Association Board of Trustees

Media coverage: 

(November 12, 2015) The National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association – one of the nation’s leading child advocacy organizations – announced today the election of Mary Landrieu, a former three-term senator from Louisiana, to the National CASA Board of Trustees. Landrieu will begin her term on January 1, 2016.

Landrieu chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. She is an adoptive parent of two (and the wife of an adoptee), who co-founded the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and successfully inserted the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision requiring states to provide Medicaid coverage for former foster youth up to age 26 (coverage that had previously only been included in the legislation for their non-foster care counterparts).

“Mary has long been a champion for abused and neglected children aligned with our vision, a world in which every abused or neglected child is given the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home,” said Bill Collins, President of National CASA Association Board of Trustees. “Her service on our board will not only continue her important advocacy work, it will bolster our renewed commitment to serve the well over 600,000 abused or neglected children in the court or child welfare system here in America.”

Senator Landrieu’s actions on behalf of abused and neglected children and for the CASA movement have been recognized by the organization for more than a decade. She received the Children’s Champion in Congress Award in 2004 and she was the first recipient of the National CASA Board of Trustees President’s Award in 2014. For Landrieu, however, it isn’t about the awards or the accolades. It is about each child languishing in the child welfare system.

“Hundreds of thousands of children, through no fault of their own, are in foster care needing an adult to advocate for their well-being,” said Landrieu. “I will never stop fighting, and I know National CASA Association won’t either, until every abused or neglected child is in a safe and loving home.”

In 2014, National CASA Association embarked on an intense journey of exploration and assessment that resulted in the development of a strategic framework – the roadmap to a more sustainable future, which has resulted in a complete transformation of the organization by the Board of Trustees.

“The Board of Trustees has taken bold steps in transforming National CASA Association into a model service and advocacy organization,” said Tara Perry, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer. “Mary’s talents and passion will be a wonderful addition to a Board that is poised to dramatically increase the support of our mission and the advocacy of the children we have promised to serve.”

The only program of its kind, National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association is a network of nearly 1,000 state and community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused or neglected children in courtrooms and communities. Last year more than 76,000 CASA/GAL volunteers and staff provided over 251,000 children with one-on-one advocacy. National CASA Association’s mission, together with its state and local member programs, is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every abused or neglected child in the United States can be safe, have a permanent home and the opportunity to thrive.

Akerman Pledges $1 Million to National CASA Association to Benefit Foster Youth
Firm Expands Philanthropic and Pro Bono Commitment to Education & Youth Development with Formation of Academic Scholarship

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Other National Media:  Houston Chronicle | Sacramento Bee | San Francisco Chronicle | The Washington Times | Philanthropy News Digest


Associated Press Wire Service Release | Monday, September 21, 2015 MIAMI (AP)

Miami law firm helping foster children — A Miami law firm is helping foster children get legal representation or volunteer guardian advocates. Akerman LLP is partnering with the National Court Appointed Special Advocates, pledging $1 million to the organization and working to create a model that can be replicated with other philanthropic businesses. A significant portion of the money will go to the organization and its local guardian ad litem programs to strengthen its network of court-appointed advocates and volunteer training programs. Funds also will be used to establish a scholarship for college-bound youth who have aged out of the foster care system.

National CASA Association News Release - September 14, 2015

As a lasting contribution to at-risk youth nationwide, Akerman LLP, a top 100 U.S. law firm serving clients and communities across the Americas, has intensified its philanthropic and pro bono legal efforts with a $1 million pledge to the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association. The donation, dedicated to benefit current and former foster youth, is the largest donation CASA has ever received from a law firm and one of the greatest sustained commitments it has received throughout its 38-year history.

Akerman's $1 million pledge represents a commitment over six years to take on a substantial role in the lives of foster youth nationwide. A significant portion of the pledged funds will go to National CASA Association and its local CASA/guardian ad litem (GAL) programs to support the more than 600,000 abused and neglected children who enter the overburdened foster care system each year.

Funds also will be used to establish the "Akerman Academic Scholarship for Foster Youth." This endowed fund will help minimize the financial burden of higher education for college-bound youth who have grown up in foster care or have spent time in the foster care system. Many students lack the resources to live an independent life once they age-out of the foster care system, and few can afford the necessities to attend school, including the essential books and supplies, registration fees and living expenses. The goal of the Akerman Scholarship is to address these needs and provide these students with increased opportunities to achieve success.

"It takes immense commitment and far-reaching acts if we are going to achieve quality advocacy for every abused and neglected child in the foster care system," said Andrew Smulian, Akerman Chairman and CEO. "Our people have once again come together to take this huge step toward building an enduring program that will support foster youth in the years ahead. Akerman's $1 million pledge is about improving the outcomes for at-risk youth by leveraging our firm's resources while further aligning with our clients and other community partners who share our passion for making a difference."

"Entering our third year of Akerman’s support of local CASA/GAL programs across the nation, we are so excited to see this partnership expand and grow," said Bill Collins, President of National CASA. “We fully expect these efforts to have a tremendous impact on the lives of the children we serve."

Identifying a Need and Bridging the Gap

Andrew Smulian









With more than half a million children entering the foster care system each year, almost a third lack a legal advocate to stand for them and ensure the services and support they need to succeed. Akerman's contribution will strengthen the CASA/GAL network of court appointed advocates and support volunteer training programs to maintain strong child advocacy in the courtroom and other settings.

Studies demonstrate a child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to do better in school.

  • Only 46 percent of youth in foster care earn a high school diploma, compared to 84 percent of all students nationwide.


  • Only 15 percent of foster youth attend postsecondary institutions, with only about one percent completing college due to insufficient support, lack of appropriate guidance and unmet financial needs.


  • One in five will become homeless after aging-out of the foster care system and 25 percent will be incarcerated by age 20.

The Akerman Academic Scholarship for Foster Youth addresses these realities for foster youth who represent a unique segment within a larger population of vulnerable young adults. The Akerman Scholarship aims to recognize and support the achievements of those who have overcome adverse childhood experiences by demonstrating high levels of academic commitment and readiness for success.


Working in collaboration, Akerman and National CASA will award deserving students who wish to enroll in public and private universities, or technical/career programs. The Akerman Scholarship is anticipated to launch in early 2016, when more details will be distributed to the CASA/GAL network and the broader community.

Advancing New Methods of Community Impact 

Akerman's $1 million pledge to National CASA Association is part of the firm's continuing commitment to promote volunteer and pro bono advocacy for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. The commitment spans multiple priority initiatives on both local and national levels throughout the year, including community awareness, volunteer engagement, pro bono, fundraising and donations, and an academic scholarship, among others.


Utilizing Akerman's national platform and building relationships between local offices and neighboring CASA/GAL programs represents a unique partnership. As the first law firm to partner nationally with the organization, Akerman is working closely with the National CASA Association to create a model that can be replicated with other philanthropic businesses.


Tara Perry









“The Akerman partnership represents the best of all worlds for us,” said Tara Perry, Chief Executive Officer for the National CASA Association. “It will allow us to make a national impact at multiple levels that broadens our service to abused and neglected children.”

The pledge marks an unprecedented effort by a law firm to advance the CASA/GAL mission, signaling to the legal industry at large that the need for child advocates is great. Law firms are uniquely qualified to make an impact on the lives of foster youth given their breadth of skills and resources in the courtroom and the community.


"The relationship National CASA Association established with Akerman just last year has had more impact than we ever imagined and our hope is to replicate the results with other community partners," said Perry. "Akerman has become a pioneering partner for National CASA and a significant advocate for children in foster care. Nothing is more meaningful to us than for organizations like Akerman to strengthen their commitment to foster youth and inspire others to take part in such a vital cause."


Click here to watch a brief video about Akerman's partnership with National CASA to help give at-risk youth a voice in the courtroom and communities across the country.

Recognizing the Power of Collective Generosity

Akerman's commitment to CASA programs builds upon the momentum of the firm's latest Give Back Campaign, a collective effort during the month of the May by the firm's professionals and staff to pledge volunteer and pro bono hours, and raise critical funds, to help at-risk youth. Since the campaign launched in 2014, more than 1,200 Akerman employees across the United States have participated in the Give Back Campaign, with hundreds pledging more than 22,000 volunteer and pro bono hours and contributing more than $200,000. The pledged time and contributions have the potential to improve the lives of more than 350 foster youth. These Give Back efforts are in addition to the firm's continuing contributions of pro bono legal services and financial support to numerous and varied community organizations.


The Akerman Give Back campaign is a highly-focused initiative that harnesses the power of lawyers and staff firm-wide around a common cause during a specified time of the year in order to achieve the greatest impact in the community. By merging the two functions of pro bono legal service and volunteer community service, this hybrid-giving approach lends the opportunity for Akerman to serve the community hand-in-hand with clients, philanthropic organizations as well as other civic and business leaders who share the firm's philanthropic focus in the areas of education and youth development.


Read more about Akerman's model approach to impact giving in Diversity & the Bar magazine.

About Akerman LLP

Akerman LLP is a leading transactions and trial law firm known for its core strengths in middle market M&A, within the financial services and real estate industries, and for a diverse Latin America practice. With more than 600 lawyers and government affairs professionals and a network of 20 offices, it is ranked among the top 100 law firms in the United States by The American Lawyer (2015). Akerman also is ranked among the top 50 law firms for diversity in The American Lawyer's Diversity Scorecard (2015).

Akerman has a long history of public service and corporate citizenship that stems from a deep commitment to serve as allies and advocates in the community. The firm's philanthropic and pro bono efforts focus on important, worthwhile, and vital causes - particularly in the areas of education and youth development. Akerman addresses critical social issues through community partnerships, employee volunteerism, pro bono service, and by collaborating with clients to expand the reach of shared purpose-driven initiatives.

More information can be found at akerman.com or twitter.com/akerman_law.

About National CASA Association

National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is a network of nearly 1,000 state and community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. The only program of its kind, CASA/GAL volunteers are empowered by the courts to provide children with one-on-one advocacy. CASA/GAL volunteers see their assigned children regularly and interview all the adults who impact their lives. Volunteer advocates offer judges the critical information they need to ensure each child's rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care, staying with the child until she is placed in a loving permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer is the only constant adult presence in their lives. More information can be found at casaforchildren.org.


 National CASA Announces 2016 National Mentoring Summit Partnership

National CASA is proud to serve as a supporting partner of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership's 2016 National Mentoring Summit, January 27-29, in Washington, DC.The event offers 65 workshops and compelling plenary sessions, bringing together practitioners, researchers, corporate partners, government and civic leaders, national youth-serving organizations, and MENTOR's network of affiliate Mentoring Partnerships to explore and advance mentoring's positive impact. We look forward to another highly informative National Mentoring Summit and hope to see you there!

3,700 Brand-New Toys Light Up the Lives of Chicago-Area Abused and Neglected Children

Nearly five-hundred Chicago-area foster and underprivileged children received brand-new toys and enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon of play at a special "Play Your Part – Chicago" event hosted by the Toy Industry Foundation (TIF), National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association and CASA of Cook County. Held on Thursday, July 16th at U.S. Cellular Field, the memorable event was made possible thanks to generous toy industry volunteers, donors and sponsors from dozens of local toy companies.

Young children and teens (many of whom are awaiting placement in loving, permanent homes) were thrilled by the toys and games they received at the event, choosing from a wide selection of playthings that included arts & crafts, dolls, books, outdoor toys, and more. The afternoon of play also included volunteer-led activities and games for the kids, and other activities such as face-painting and crafts. Read More                         

A Voice Revealed: A CASA Story 25 Years in the Making


In 2013, a staff member of CASA of Travis County went to a law firm downtown to meet with them about recruiting CASA volunteers. When he mentioned the CASA program at the reception desk, the woman looked up at him and said, “CASA? I had a CASA volunteer.”

Not only did she have a CASA volunteer in Austin back in the 1990s, she was still in touch with her. They’d become lifelong friends and part of each other’s family. A few weeks later CASA of Travis County representatives sat down to lunch with Pilar Hobbs and Camie Flowers, her former CASA volunteer-turned-friend. Pilar’s story was difficult to tell and to hear, but she explained that she was ready to share what she had been through to help ensure that other children didn’t have to face the challenges of the foster care system alone. The 27-minute video chronicles Pilar’s challenging journey in and out of foster care (with and without a CASA volunteer), and later raising her own child.

READ | WATCH Pilar’s story.                                                  

Up Close with a CASA Volunteer: Tennessee Case Shows Flexibility is Key for Kids

*Family names have been changed*

The Reynolds family was blessed with six beautiful children who were born to a mother who unfortunately, struggled all of her life. After allegations of lack of supervision, environmental neglect, educational neglect, and drug exposure, Williamson County CASA was appointed by the court.

Williamson County Tennessee is located in Middle Tennessee, just outside of the growing city of Nashville. With more than 200,000 residents, a thriving music scene, a host of big health care employers, and a booming local economy (ranking among the fastest growing in the country). To outsiders looking in, the area is a perfect mix of upward mobility, affordable housing, and thriving children.

But that’s not true for all children as more than 12,000 of the county’s families live at or below, the poverty line. And work with the Reynolds’ children showed how Williamson County CASA has to be persistent and flexible to serve the needs of children because of the perception of wealth and stability county-wide. Read More



The US Department of Justice has supported CASA advocacy since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
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