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News and Information from the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association

Association News 

Foster Children Take a Stand in San Francisco and Atlanta

As a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the San Francisco CASA program encouraged the Bay Area community to “Keep Our Promise” to these children with an event on April 7–8 in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and another in Union Square on April 9. The events were staged in collaboration with the California State CASA Association and National CASA. Former foster youth and members of the legal community were on hand to unveil 433 life-sized child displays symbolizing each of the San Francisco children who entered foster care in 2009.

A similar Forgotten Children event was held by the Georgia CASA Association on April 16 in Woodruff Park, Atlanta. A total of 572 life-sized child displays filled the downtown park, symbolizing the average number of Georgia children who entered foster care each month in 2009. The event was supported by Judge Glenda Hatchett and former foster youth Brittany Jean of Atlanta.

“When I entered the foster care system as a teenager, I was timid and afraid,” says Brittany Jean, now a member of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families Advisory Board. “I felt like I had no control or say about what was going on around me. My CASA volunteer really listened and gave me the courage to speak up for myself. I directly credit my CASA volunteer with ensuring that I found a safe home where I could thrive and become who I am today.”

Media coverage of the San Francisco event included the San Francisco Examiner, KTVU-2 Fox 5 p.m. News, Telemundo Early News and Univision.com. The Atlanta event was featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which also ran an editorial by Judge Glenda Hatchett, and WABE-FM (NPR).

Display in front of San Francisco City Hall

Georgia CASA Director Duaine Hathaway (left) and National CASA Chief Communications Officer Jim Clune at the setup of the Atlanta Forgotten Children event

Forging a New Frontier of Volunteer Advocacy for Children in Alaska

National CASA Regional Program Officer Michael Heaton visits Fort Yukon inside the Arctic Circle.

Working with members of the Alaska Tribal Collaborative and utilizing federal funding, National CASA is in the process of developing programs in the rural interior, bush and Arctic Circle that will serve tribal children.

In October, Kenaitze Indian Tribe CASA Coordinator Kym Miller and National CASA Regional Program Officer Michael Heaton traveled throughout the state—by prop plane, snow machine and river boat—to meet with collaborative constituents. These included representatives of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, Orutsaramuit Native Council, Association of Village Council Presidents, Tribal Judges of Kwethluk, Gwichyaa Zhee Gwichin Tribe, Friends of Alaska CASA, the state of Alaska Office of Public Advocacy and Alaska CASA.

“The level of commitment of everyone involved, their willingness and ability to work together to bring volunteer advocacy to children in these remote communities is truly impressive,” said Heaton.

Establishment of the first program in Bethel—the largest community on the west coast of Alaska—is well underway. In the spring of 2010, the program began recruiting volunteers to serve some of the 300 children currently in care. A second program is developing in Ft. Yukon, a small community above the Arctic Circle. The Gwichyaa Zhee Gwichin CASA program is being developed by Arlene Joseph, the tribe’s Indian Child Welfare Act worker. She expects to hold the first training of volunteers this fall. A third program is starting up in Barrow, the northern-most municipality in the world. Tribal Court Administrator Dora Arey is heading the program development there. Finally, a new CASA program is expected to open this summer in southeast Alaska.

The Alaska expansion is funded through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice.

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