Responses to Monthly Big Questions

If you could change one thing about your local CASA or GAL program, what would it be?

October 2012

Thank you to everyone who shared suggestions for improving your CASA program by responding to last month's Big Question.

Several of you said that what your program needs is more volunteers, something National CASA is certainly working toward. Some people said "nothing," their CASA program is in great shape! Other thoughts included the following:

  • Be able to transport children (suggested more than once)
  • Have stable funding sources; spend less time on fundraising
  • Make CASA a household name
  • Ensure continuity in volunteer training/trainers and more thorough training; require CASA-specific education
  • Make provisions for those who do not have consistent computer access
  • Make the swearing in ceremony a larger celebration

What materials and resources could National CASA add to the fundraising and marketing sections of CASAforChildren.org to support your work?

September 2012

Thank you for the great suggestions! They are being passed along to the marketing team working on future materials.

  • More diversity in images (e.g., American Indian children for northwest programs) and in language (print brochures in Spanish)
  • Increased ability to customize materials
  • Web templates
  • Fundraising kits for events
  • Enabling programs to accept registrations and donations through the National CASA website
  • Continue to provide sample direct mail appeal letters and thank you letters, especially with year-end giving on the horizon
  • More hard statistics - showcase the results of volunteer advocacy

What theme(s) have you used for successful fundraising events? If willing, please share your email address so others can contact you.

August 2012

Thank you to everyone who shared their email addresses so that other may contact them for suggestions. Ideas included  "Justice Is Served" event, in which judges, police chiefs and others in the justice field serve dinner, and a 1940s Big Band themed event in Texas.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote? If so, please share it with us. We'll feature your suggestions in future communications.

July 2012

Thank you for all the inspiration!

  • Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little. ~ Burke
  • Be the change you want to see in the world.
  • I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edgar Everett Hale
  • Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them. ~ Dalai Lama
  • The world is a dangerous please not because of people who do evil, but because of good people who look on and do nothing. ~ Einstein
  • It's your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude. Zig Ziggler
  • Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. ~ Henry David Thoreau
  • If you want to move people, it has to be towards a vision that is positive for them, that taps important values, that gets them something they desire and it has to be presented in a compelling way that they feel inspired to follow. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • I failed myself to success. ~ Thomas Edison
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain"
  • I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do. ~ Helen Keller
  • We are each other's business; we are each other's harvest; we are each other's magnitude and bond. Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Be the change you wish to see in the world.
  • Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the staircase, just take the first step.  ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • If you build it they will come (I have put this saying into action organizing a Moms' ministry group in my church. And also to help children whom are homeless and are in a home for children 12 to 17)
  • The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
  • All the children who are held in love will know how to love others. Spread these virtues through the world. Nothing more need be done. ~ Chinese proverb circa 500 AD
  • Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. " ~ John Wesley
  • I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody. ~ Lily Tomlin

If you could change one thing about the child welfare system, what would it be?

June 2012

Thanks to everyone who responded to our May Big Question with passionate and insightful comments. Themes included more education for service providers/decision makers, more emphasis on child well-being, and more consistency in the children's lives.

  • I would change the focus on child welfare from dollars and cents to best interest for children.

  • More local control and transparency, fewer federal mandates

  • I would change the way people view children in foster care! Through no fault of their own, these children are removed from their home and then treated as second rate. That is the worst thing to me. These children matter, and I would make sure that they were treated with the dignity and respect that they deserved from beginning to end.

  • One caseworker through a child's foster care journey

  • More and better foster homes....desperate need!

  • Better education for decision-makers; training in trauma-focused, evidence-based therapies

  • In my ideal world the ratio of children to staff would be low so no one gets lost in the shuffle and services would be tailored to each child

  • Reconsider insistance on keeping children with their biological family; move the statute for termination of parental rights to 12 months instead of 15 months.

  • Better communication between CASA and child welfare agency and inclusion in permanency planning staffings would be helpful.

  • I would remove the children from the home as parents are tying to detox from drugs or currently on substances. Our county doesn't see an issue that kids are placed as an in home chins during this process.

In the spirit of April Fool's Day: As a CASA volunteer, what was your biggest blunder and what did you learn from it?

May 2012 

Thank you to everyone who shared their stories and life lessons with us, including: don't take it personally; don't judge; and don't hesitate to speak up. Below are some of your responses.

  • I walked up to the birth mother of my child in the court house, it was the first time I met her and she screamed "Ew your perfume" grabbed a cloth and threw it over her face for the rest of the day. She wouldn't speak to me or the child. Sat on the other side of the courtroom and didn't say goodbye to the child. Since it is my first case and I have only worked with the child for a little over a month, I guess I learned don't wear perfume! And don't take it personally!
  • I missed a court date. I learned that I will never do that again.
  • Well, it just happened today went for my finger prints for CASA. When asked what my eye color was I said, "Caucasian." When asked what my race was, I said, "Hazel." The sheriff asked if I was starting my own race. The entire office was in stitches!
  • Once in court, I was supposed to introduce a CASA in training who was observing court that day. I stood up and said, "With me is Jane Doe, a prospective CASA. She has read and understands the...[change to slow motion here]...."  I could NOT for the life of me remember the words, "confidentiality agreement." What I learned was the the record can be corrected, and that the world did not end because I made an error in open court.
  • Not speaking up in court when I should have. I was new and learned that I had to be more confident talking in the courtroom.
  • My 18-year-old had always talked of going to college. He had already been looking into colleges to attend and he had the grades to choose where he went. He decided to join the Army. My initial response was not particularly good, and it took me about three months to reestablish the relationship we had. I learned to be careful about my opinion.
  • Waiting too long to have a child removed from a foster placement that wasn't working.
  • I learned from several little mistakes that you always want to make sure that you are the most knowledgeable about the topic or the case before you ever say anything. "Abraham Lincoln said, "It is better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."
  • What I thought was my biggest blunder turned out to be not so much a blunder as a new awareness of the complexity of the system in which our CASA children must survive. I learned that not only must I advocate for my CASA children, I must also explain my role often. I must be able say in a straightforward way exactly why I am taking the stand I am taking for my CASA children.

What are the top qualities that effective CASA volunteers possess (e.g., caring, persistent, etc.)?

April 2012 

Our March Big Question elicited a record number of responses--more than 150 on Facebook and through our polling tool!

National CASA staff members read your thoughts and created an audio collage featuring a few of their favorites. Listen to this short recording on our podcast page. Read more on the National CASA blog.

Thank you to everyone who shared inspiring words of praise describing the work of CASA volunteers.

How could the CASA/GAL network better equip current volunteers to recruit new volunteers?

March 2012

Thank you for your many suggestions! Below are the most popular themes and responses:

  • Increase awareness: more national television ads, radio ads, advertising that reflects the populations we serve (e.g., Native Americans), articles in local papers and presence in social media
  • Provide information about other ways people who are not ready to commit can get involved with the program
  • Tell stories of the whole gamut of volunteers--from retired to work to stay at home. Show people that they do have the time!
  • Encourage current CASA volunteers to recruit others, perhaps with a recruitment contest or other rewards/incentives
  • Ask current volunteers for recruitment ideas; give them information, business cards, promotional brochures, fact sheets/FAQs to inform their recruitment efforts 
  • Teach recruitment techniques to volunteers
  • Provide more tools: fact sheets, DVDs of inspiring stories
  • Include advocates (prepared with key talking points) in community presentations
  • Mentoring

What are the biggest issues facing the children and families that you work with (e.g., of medication, lack of educational supports)? 

February 2012

Wow! More than 100 people responded to the January Big Question by taking our poll and posting on Facebook, providing valuable feedback to help National CASA administration understand the issues affecting youth in care. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond and share your insights.

Most responses were grouped around the following themes:

  • Families living in poverty, unable to meet basic needs, including proper nutrition
  • Challenges to parents:
    • Do not feel empowered
    • Do not receive support from CPS
    • Lack control once children are in system
    • Face stigmas
    • Do not receive (sometimes mandated) needed counseling, anger management classes and other services due to lack of funding
  • Lack of supportive services for families, e.g., housing, transportation, counseling, health care, anger management and long waiting lists
  • Lack of availability of and instability in foster family placements
  • Lack of support for children aging out of care 
  • Generational family problems of substance abuse, domestic violence and lack of educational achievement
  • Delays in initiating therapy and other services
  • CPS staffing challenges: lack of workers to supervise visits, turnover
  • Lack of programs for incarcerated mothers
  • Need for additional training among CASA volunteers, school personnel and other professionals

What have you learned from a child you advocated for or family you worked with in 2011?

January 2012

Optimism, resolve, patience and understanding were among the sentiments expressed by the many people who responded to December's Big Question. Their thoughts included the following:

  • That true love knows no color, no boundaries, no limits and certainly does not know the meaning of giving up or giving in!
  • I have learned to be patient when everything seems to be falling apart. It all works out.
  • You don't have to have the outcome you want to make a difference. This year I had a foster parent call me, crying after a child she'd raised from three months to nearly two years was removed from her home to be placed with a family member, and say, "Thank you for making the system human."
  • I have learned from the children and the family I advocate for that the "things" I thought were a big deal really are not that big and that my children and their happiness are a priceless gift!
  • That a child can change and learn to trust again with nurture and love.
  • My CASA child taught me to be an optimist. He teaches me patience....I have also learned he is always watching me, and listening to what I say, and how I say it. He teaches me to 'up my game' and be on top of everything, because he really needs me to be there for him. All the time.
  • If folks could do better, they would. Despite what I think or what I believe I would do in a given situation, most people are doing the best the can with what they have to work with.
  • To go deeper than first impressions...
  • Learned from bio parents that controlling emotions and accepting your circumstances is the first step in moving toward a healthier situation. The bio and fosters have meshed their lives in an appropriate way, putting the needs and best interests of the children first! 

How have you (or your CASA program) helped youth in care get through the holiday season?

December 2011

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions for making youth "feel loved and not forgotten" (as one program eloquently stated it) during the holidays!

Several programs described their holiday gift drives/giving trees, often including food and warm clothing, and sometimes held in partnership with local businesses or other organizations. Others wrote about partnering with DCFS, area service providers, businesses and other supporters to host holiday parties with donated gifts for the children.

Other practices included:

  • Ensuring that teens are able to connect with extended family and and enjoy social events together during the holidays
  • In partnership with a local automotive center and movie theater, CASA of Laramie County sponsors a holiday movie night for all foster children and their foster families, bringing The Polar Express to the big screen
  • "Attending any school or group home event that the child may be participating in"
  • "Our county has fleece blankets made for each child in their favorite color/theme. These are priceless."
  • "By helping them see a brighter future with love and security."

In addition, we read a newspaper article about a new "kids helping kids" program. The executive director of CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties invites children in the community to draw and donate pictures that the CASA program turns into tribute cards to sell. Read the article.

What topics (e.g., fundraising events, board engagement, working with babies and toddlers) would you like the opportunity to share ideas about in networking opportunities at the 2012 National CASA Conference and in future online discussions? 

November 2011

Thank you to the many people who responded to October's Big Question! Your thoughts will be shared with our conference planning team and social media manager.

Suggestions included:

  • Volunteerism: Why people volunteer, how to retain volunteers and avoid burnout
  • Working with teens
  • Working with babies and toddlers (mentioned more than once)
  • Working with parents
  • Building self-esteem in children and adults
  • Identity theft of children
  • Educational advocacy for kids in remote placements and group homes
  • Fundraising: events (mentioned more than once); making the case; best practices; in challenging times; what to do when you are running out of money; comprehensive campaigns; capital campaigns
  • Board recruitment and development; board engagement
  • Developing advocacy centers through partnerships
  • Website and social media marketing
  • Using social media effectively
  • Using Facebook in investigations
  • Incorporating technology in trainings
  • Court reports - negotiating what to include, dealing with inaccuracies in others' reports
  • Communicating with judges - discussing whether CASA volunteers are allowed to give recommendations
  • Community engagement, youth as an energy resource, volunteering parents
  • Light of Hope idea sharing

Which I Am for the Child campaign tool or resource are you
planning to use first, and how will you use it?

October 2011

Thank you to those who shared their enthusiasm for using the new campaign materials! The majority of people responded that they would be raising awareness by placing the radio and TV PSAs and print ads. Others said they are or will be incorporating the materials into their websites and using them at events and in fundraising efforts.

Please stay in touch and send future feedback and questions to campaign@nationalcasa.org

Does your program use a "buddy system" to train or support new volunteer? If so, how does it operate?

September 2011

Thank you to the staff who shared their successful efforts to implement peer coordinator/mentor programs.

  • From Nevada, Sheila Parks reported that her program has been using peer coordinators to support, coach and mentor newly trained volunteers since November 2010.
  • Missouri CASA program has seasoned volunteers accompany new volunteers on their first meeting and home visit. The experienced partner remains available for ongoing support and future questions. "This helps to give another resource to the volunteer besides office staff and boosts a sense of "team" among the volunteers."
  • A third program staff member shared: "Yes, we use team leaders to help when new volunteers take on their first case. The team leaders shadow a new volunteer and assist with proper approach to the investigation: who to see and speak with first, key issues in the case to be addressed. We also use mentors. They are available to a list of volunteers assigned only to them. They will answer questions, help them explore how to break down barriers to communication and use their knowledge to become great advocates!"

 

What are your most successful methods for recruiting volunteers, e.g., newspaper articles, radio PSAs, social media, etc.?

August 2011

Thank you for your many responses!

The overwhelming favorite method for recruiting volunteers is by newspaperarticles, letters to the editor, community calendarsfollowed by radio PSAs and radio ads. Recruiting through social media, word of mouth and presentations to community groups and potential jurors were other methods mentioned by several respondents. (For details about recruiting through juries, please see a new website article by Sheila Parks, director of the 8th Judicial District Court CAS program in Las Vegas.)

Additional suggestions:

  • Table tents in restaurants and bookmarks/other materials for libraries
  • "I keep up with recent retirees in my counties. I send them a card congratulating them and tell them about CASA. I have been getting calls this year from people through these efforts."
  • Church bulletins
  • Referrals from existing volunteers  

What new or emerging child welfare issues (e.g., use of psychotropic medications) would you like National CASA to feature in future trainings (including the 2012 National CASA Conference)?

July 2011

Thank you for your suggestions! They will be shared with the conference workshop planning team.

  • Behavior and Sensory Connection (a workshop offered by Occupational Therapist Eva Dawson)
  • Supporting Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse, with an emphasis on the affects of trauma (a workshop presented by the Nebraska Domestic Violence Sexual Assault Coalition)
  • Moving cases of sexual abuse through the criminal justice system more quickly
  • Trauma informed care/trauma therapy/trauma v. ADHD
  • Parental addiction to prescription drugs
  • Use of psychotropic medications
  • Children's mental health issues for laymen/mental health issues beyond ADHD and bipolar disorder/reactive attachment disorder
  • Advocating for children who will need long-term care for mental health issues
  • Alcoholism/alcoholism and how it affects the family
  • Transition age youth
  • Education advocacy
  • Early childhood intervention
  • The Benevon fundraising model
  • The child welfare transformation occurring across the country

What theme(s) have you used for successful fundraising events?

June 2011

Thank you for your creative thoughts!

  • "CASA Hoops for Kids" basketball tournament (now in its fifth year)
  • "It's a Small World"
  • A yet-to-be-named chocolate-themed fundraiser to be held in conjunction with Valentine's Day
  • An annual "No Show" event, such as a "No Show Golf Tournament" (Susan, Spirit of the Plains CASA)
  • "Ante Up for Kids" Texas hold'em tournament
  • Golf scrambles
  • "CASAs Dancing for the Stars," "CASA Casino Royal" and "CASAs Searching for the Stars" (Carmen, Payne County CASA)
  • "Make Time for Kids" clock auction
  • "All About Bags" annual luncheon or tea and auction of handbags, golf bags, garden bags, dog bags, etc. (Jennifer, CASA of Jackson County)
  • "Winter Wonderland" designer Christmas tree auction
  • "Dancing with Our Stars"
  • "Light of Hope Walk-a-Mile for a Child"
  • "Change Your Shoes....Change a Life." A wine, women and shoes event (Colleen, Kern County CASA)
  • CASA Outdoors (Delyce, CASA of Lonoke County)

We've been asking the questions - now we want to hear yours! What "Big Questions" would you like to have answered in future months?

May 2011

Thank you for sharing your Big Questions with us! Watch for them in future months.

What are some simple, low- or no-cost ways that you recognize volunteers individually?

April 2011

More than two dozen programs responded to the March Big Question, sharing a range of methods  - from innovative to evergreen - for recognizing valued volunteers. Read a few examples below and take a few minutes to skim the full list. You are bound to come away with some fresh ideas - just in time for Volunteer Appreciation Week April 10-16!

  • "During National Volunteer Week, we send a letter to the volunteer’s employer, thanking them for their support. Great for retention and occasionally it ends up in the company newsletter and helps with recruitment."
  • "When volunteers are appointed to a new case they receive a hand-written note from a board member thanking them."
  • "We send a Valentine's Day card signed with the names of every child the volunteer has advocated for."

February’s Black History Month celebrates successful African Americans throughout history. How is your program working to create success for today’s Black youth?

March 2011

Respondents to February's Big Question addressed both the importance of celebrating the occasion and the ways that they are helping Black children succeed. Several people shared their opinions about the importance of understanding history in order to move ahead. Others briefly described specific programs and collaborations designed to help Black youth succeed by promoting opportunities and awareness and celebrating the achievements of African Americans.

Do you use social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) in your case work? If so, how?

February 2011

More than 50 people responded to our January Big Question, sharing the variety of ways they use social media, or why they do not use it at all. Several respondents mentioned using Facebook to promote CASA news or program events. Others use the sites for educational purposes, for example, to show teenage girls how to keep themselves safe on the internet or to show adults the value and ease of networking.

Responses about communicating with parents and youth and conducting research ran the gamut, from those who avoid social networking sites due to CASA program policies and HIPPA concerns to those who have found the sites useful in their case work. Our existing social media policy (99 KB), provides the following guidance: 

“Volunteers and staff should not link to personal pages (or become online “friends”) of families or children they may encounter in their capacity with the CASA/GAL program. This includes email addresses, instant messenger names, blogs, photo sharing sites and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.”

As always, we appreciate being informed by your experience in the field and welcome your thoughts on our policy.

What is the one thing that you have learned from a child you advocated for in the last year?

January 2011

We learned a lot from respondents to December's Big Question. We also learned something about them. They are shy! Given the choice between sharing their thoughts by voice mail or email/Facebook, the majorityall but onechose to communicate electronically.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts,and especially to our first and only caller, Jeni Smith, the executive director of the 10th Judicial District CASA in Hamburg, AR, who said:

The one thing that I have learned this yearnot just from one child but many of the childrenis that it is never too late to be part of a family. That really goes for all of us.

Other shared insights included:

  • No matter now much the child is neglected or abused, there is still a connection and they love their parents. Never forget that when you work with your kids.
  • I learned that love and loyalty are often mixed up, confused, unrecognizable, destructive, healing, horrid and lovely at the same time. The beauty of a child’s spirit is never ending.
  • That a child needs a sense of worth more than love. It is more important that they understand they have value and worth than your love. It takes time for love. That you cannot undo in a few meetings what the child has more then likely experienced in his or her lifetime.
  • That not only can you make a difference in a child's life but the child can make a difference in yours also.
  • To never give up or lose faith in them. Be open minded, remember what they've seen or have been through and try to instill hope.
  • They have a lot to teach you as an individual....no matter what the circumstances.
  • That emotions and feelings are temporary, next time things might be different. Hold on and be patient.
  • You need to listen carefully. I asked a child why they had so many stuffed tazmanian devil cartoon characters around the house. Why not Buggs Bunny. The answer was that Bugs was really mean. Later in the conversation the child told me that Dad said that he learned everything he knows from Buggs Bunny...You’ve gotta listen.
  • Where to I start...I learn something new every time I visit my youth. 1. Never Give Up! 2. Have hope and dreams 3. Listen to them 4. Build Trust. 4. Always be there when they need you. We (CASA) are their voices and they count on us to be there for them and when the youth lets the wall down we cannot let them down!
  • We must advocate in the child's best interest, no matter what. Towards the end of the only case I’ve had, the child did not like me much, but he didn't understand at that time that what we did brought the desired outcome! And that's ok, because when it was over, he was safe at home with the legal guardian he wanted, and was the best for him! That was priceless!
  • I’ve  learned that making funny faces is usually a good thing when people around the child are talking to much.
  • I learned to advocate for myself. I went in thinking I was going to help...Instead I was the one who gained so much! She is still such a jewel and joy in my life!
  • Their resilience is amazing!
  • The big thing that I have been reminded of is that the love a child has for their parent is never ending.

What opportunities are available for your program’s volunteers to come together, share information and support each other?

December 2010

Responses ranged from "very few - we communicate one-on-on mostly" to "frequent social opportunities, continuing education opportunities, mentoring program...."

Several respondents shared that regularly scheduled training opportunities and get-togethers provide opportunities for support and exchange of ideas/information.

Other practices include:

  • Monthly inservice meetings and monthly meetings held during evening hours
  • Twice-monthly "CASA to CASA" open meetings where suggestions on cases are offered
  • A youth panel and other activities
  • Team support: Matching 4 or 5 CASA volunteers with one experienced volunteer
  • Monthly "First Friday Lunch Bunch" offering a training component with a "mingle" for volunteers to bounce ideas off of each other. A supervisor is always present.

Can you come up with two simple phrases of two words each that express the core of our work? For example, Continental Airlines says: "Stay close. Go far."

November 2010

More than 60 people responded to our October Big Question with creative, passionate and heart-felt phrases describing the work of CASA volunteers. Your thoughts will help inform future communications efforts to recruit needed CASA volunteers and, as CEO Michael Piraino said, provide "more grist for our thought mill."

A few examples:

  • One child. Endless possibilities.
  • Your voice. Their future.
  • Investigate thoroughly. Advocate passionately.
  • Small hands. Big dreams.

See a list of all responses.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have received about advocating for abused and neglected children?

October 2010

The response to our September Big Question was astounding! Nearly 100 people posted words of wisdom about volunteer advocacy in our poll and on Facebook. We asked members of our National CASA staff to pick their favorite thoughts and read them for an audio collage.

 

Volunteers: Have you maintained contact with a youth you advocated for after she/he aged out of foster care? If so, in what ways?

Program staff: If you have policies governing this situation, what do they advise?

September 2010

Working to prepare youth for a successful transition into early adulthood is key element of National CASA's current strategic plan. The thorough and thoughtful responses to August's Big Question indicated that it is a topic about which program staff and volunteers are also giving a great deal of consideration.

Every volunteer responding to August's Big Question stated that she had maintained or was interested in maintaining contact with youth leaving care. In most cases, volunteers indicated that they provided support and information, ranging from assistance with college applications to referrals to counseling.

Responses of program staff members varied. The majority said that their programs do not have a formal policy dictating if volunteers should maintain connections with the youth they have served. Many informally advise volunteers that the relationship may be continued if initiated by the youth.

We have no formal policies governing this situation; however, we tell volunteers that if they have built a relationship with a youth then by no means should it be cut off just because a court no longer allows the individual to be a court appointed special advocate. We guide volunteers to not act as a formal, legal advocate for a youth, but to serve in an advisory capacity or a trusted adult.

Remaining program respondents were divided between having policies that allowed and prohibited contact.

Our state utilizes the “bridge” model—a CASA volunteer leads a child across the “bridge” to permanency and then returns to help another child. It is felt that continued involvement with the child after the end of the case can be disruptive, either to a natural or an adoptive family.

How is your program using social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?

August 2010

July’s Big Question elicited a record number of responses, most of them positive. Programs are using social media—primarily Facebook—to share event photos, stories and successes; announce fundraising and training events; thank donors; recruit volunteers; and distribute training materials and articles related to CASA work. One program reported using Twitter to “follow other CASA programs in order to pick up possible fundraising and recruitment ideas.”

 “We have been able to keep our fans and active volunteers (who use Facebook) up to date with all events and also really link them up with us through information, inspirational quotes and pictures. It has really helped some of our volunteers feel more connected to us.”

The primary challenges are a lack of time and knowledge. Several respondents said that they find it difficult to attract followers and generate engaging content. A few expressed concerns about the possibility of volunteers breaching confidentiality or of a Facebook page “becoming an open forum for families to bash the child welfare system or volunteers.”

What new or emerging issues would you like to learn more about at the 2011 National CASA Conference in Chicago, March 19-22?

July 2010

Thank you to everyone who shared suggestions for workshops! Your input has been sent to the training specialist and the team currently planning the conference training sessions.

In your experience working with children in foster care, what are the elements that constitute child well-being?

June 2010

michael pirainoSummary by Michael Piraino, National CASA CEO

With our May Big Question, I asked members of the CASA community to share their thoughts about what constitutes child well-being. The response to this monthly question was the largest to date, with more than 40 people taking the poll and another 20 commenting on Facebook.

I asked this question because I was in several meetings in Washington, DC where people said it is hard to know what well-being is. I suspected that members of our network wouldn't find it so hard, and I was right. Your responses show that you have a strong and sophisticated understanding of child well-being. 

Responses ranged from one-word answers to comprehensive paragraphs, with most touching on the lasting qualities of stability, consistency, confidence, routine, structure, permanence, security and love. Rather than defining such attributes by their absence, CASA program staff and volunteers described the ways they cultivate these qualities for children. They offered advice ranging from: “It is very important (children) know they are not responsible for the choices their parents/guardians have made,” to “Ask questions of the child rather than assuming he fits into a mold.”

Thank you for remaining focused on the possibilities that will create well-being and success for our children.

How does your program recognize volunteers during National Volunteer Week and throughout the year?

May 2010

Thank you to everyone who shared time-proven and innovative ways to recognize and reward volunteers for their efforts. From banquets to newsletter articles, from gifts to free massages, respondents indicated that their volunteers are being recognized in April and throughout the year.

Recognition and retention ideas included the following:

  • "During Volunteer Week we are holding a catered luncheon.  We are also giving them CASA kids beaded bookmarks as a gift of appreciation.  We also hold a Cup o' CASA fellowship hour every other month, when volunteers come in and have casual  time to sit and chat over a light breakfast and beverages."

  • "Throughout the year, we send birthday cards and random notes of encouragement. Every other month we go to dinner as a group after our monthly meeting. This has made our volunteers feel more connected and they really enjoy it! Last month we had 14 in attendance!"

  • "We are placing an ad in the local newspaper naming all of our volunteers. The newspaper wrote a feature article on our program, and we have table tents promoting the program in restaurants throughout the county."

  • "We are having a volunteer appreciation reception. Volunteers will receive a certificate of appreciation and Light of Hope candle holder. A group picture of volunteers will also be taken. Throughout the year, during in-service trainings, we present tokens of appreciation. We also have a scrapbook that includes photos of volunteers taken during various activities."

  • "We do a quarterly luncheon to honor those who closed cases during the quarter. We do a once a year banquet for all volunteers, with awards. We nominate volunteers for various awards given by different community groups."

How does your program work to reduce disproportionality and ensure equitable outcomes for children?

April 2010

Thank you to everyone who responded to our March Big Question. You shared some encouraging news about creating more diversity and increasing cultural competency among your staff, board and volunteers. Efforts that were identified included working to build trust among members of different communities; augmenting recruitment efforts to ensure that volunteers reflect the community served; partnering with organizations such as tribes and tribal courts; participating in work groups and trainings offered by other organizations; providing training to staff and volunteers and pursuing grant funding. One rural program shared that while they have not reduced the number of Native American children coming into care, they have succeeded in supporting the children's appropriate placements and continued contact with their cultural activities.

CASA of Lycoming County is bolstering their training efforts by augmenting educational and awareness-raising information with  practical suggestions to help volunteers provide excellent, culturally competent advocacy.

In Texas, a disproportionality committee has been created in Collin County. Composed of state disproportionality staff, local CPS, regional CPS, CASA and community members from the business and faith communities, the committee examines how the community can participate in cases with families and children who are disproportionately represented. The committee also utilizes Casey's Knowing Who You Are curriculum. 

What are some of the trends you are seeing in child welfare as a result of the lingering economic downturn?

March 2010

michael pirainoSummary by Michael Piraino, National CASA CEO

This first in a series of monthly questions is one currently being asked by many of us in the child services field. I would like to thank the people who shared their thoughts with us.

It appears we have a perfect storm for many of our children, one that combines increased stresses on family life with decreased services and resources for families and children in need. This is a time of churning that is sometimes forcing public systems to make decisions partly based on cost rather than on human needs. While our advocacy can help temper those decisions, we cannot make services more available where they have been cut. 

Looking over your responses, I was struck by a number of themes that emerged.

  • In many areas, more children are coming to the attention of child welfare systems due to issues of homelessness and foreclosure.
  • Layoffs of social workers and budget cutbacks have resulted in decreased services to children.
  • Fewer caseworkers mean more stressed workers, who find it more difficult to perform an already difficult task. 
  • There is increased pressure from child welfare to move children back home, sometimes prior to completion of case plans.

Reviewing your responses to this question in combination with the recent NIS-4 study, we can assume that the risk of child maltreatment has increased because known risk factors, such as job loss, home loss and substance abuse, have increased. We can also assume that this will affect people of color disproportionately, because this community has been more severely impacted by the downturn.

John Prine once said in a song, “It is a crooked piece of time that we are living in.”  As caseloads increase and already tight resources continue to decrease, everyone working for children appears to be stressed right now, including our volunteers. Because this world we are living in continues to evolve, we at National CASA need timely intelligence straight from the front lines. As CASA program staff, you have a unique and valuable perspective. Thank you.

 

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