From School Principal to CASA Volunteer – A Natural Fit
Julie Bower, a recently retired elementary school principal, had a clear goal after completing a successful career - find the right match of her knowledge and skills in order to give back to the community. She was quickly drawn to the CASA mission and felt it was a natural fit.
According to Julie, the most compelling reason for her to volunteer with CASA is the kids. “There are so many children in Clarke County and the surrounding area who lack a voice and who desperately need to be heard,” said Julie, “Our investment in kids is always worth it.”
In her work, Julie has always valued the team approach. For her, the advice that each service provider brings to the table is critical to the ultimate outcome for a family. Those service providers include case managers, therapists, attorneys, etc. “It is a fairly awesome weight that rests on each of us to keep things moving in the right direction, and in a timely manner,” said Julie, who is working on her first case right now.
Julie meets almost weekly with her CASA kid at a therapeutic center in Atlanta. They chat about things that are happening in the child’s life and the progress that he is making. They talk about setbacks as well as leaps forward. As a CASA, Julie encourages him to share his joys, frustrations, and wishes. She also keeps up with key people in the child’s life in order to try to keep the puzzle pieces fitting together. “The dynamics seem to be very fragile most of the time and I remind myself daily to rally up appropriate empathy and patience,” said Julie. In this case, she sees her role to be one of liaison among the key people and to help those who are struggling at any given point to know that they are heard and understood.
Besides bringing care and encouragement to the child and liaising among the key people in the child’s life, Julie also participates in court hearings on a regular basis. “This has been quite a learning experience and I have developed a high level of respect for Judge Robin Shearer, the attorneys and case workers who are orchestrating life-changing positive outcomes for kids,” said Julie, “I’m working on my first case, but I can already see that a good outcome will be gratifying.”
“It has always been my hope, since I was a small child, to give back to my community and to help those in need. CASA has allowed me to do this. I continue to volunteer as a CASA because I believe I am able to make a difference in these children's lives.”
--Stephanie Adrean, UGA Student, Athens-Oconee CASA Volunteer
Stephanie Adrean, a dedicated volunteer of our Athens-Oconee Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, has just graduated from the University of Georgia in May and is going to start law school in the fall. She has been volunteering for CASA program for a year and a half since she turned 21 and has worked five cases.
Stephanie was first drawn to CASA out of her interests in the legal field. In the fall of 2010, she was informed about the CASA program after speaking with the wife of her professor who worked as a public defender in the juvenile court. She became interested in the program as it would fulfill her desire to explore the legal field while also working with children.
Later Stephanie began the training process right before her 21st birthday in the winter of 2010. “I did not know what I was getting myself into,” as she recalled, feeling the responsibilities she was going to take, “the training was information heavy and I could not believe the position I was about to hold.” However, the training was just the beginning. At the start of March 2010, she received her first case.
In the past year and a half, Stephanie has worked five cases. As a CASA volunteer, she has been dedicated to developing a relationship with the child in each case. She not only investigated and gathered information, but also listened to those children’s concerns. Before each hearing took place, she would write an objective report to inform the judge of all developments in the case. Included in those reports are her recommendations which are tailored to fit the best interests of the children. “Although all final decisions are left to the judge, my input can and does make a difference,” said Stephanie.
For Stephanie, her interest in the legal field was what drew her to CASA in the beginning. However, the reason for her to volunteer now is very different. Growing up in a family with caring and dedicated parents, she has been surrounded with love, affection, and security throughout her childhood. As she listens to the concerns of neglected and abused children, she has developed a strong will to help them and to bring care and love into their lives.
“Although not every case would turn out to be a successful story, when you work it out successfully, the reward is infinite,” said Stephanie. She will start law school this fall at UGA and will continue to volunteer as a CASA to make a difference in more children’s lives.
The volunteer appreciation event this year celebrated the hard work, dedication and accomplishments of our volunteers in CASA and Childcare programs. On May 1, we had a great time enjoying the backyard barbeque, outdoor games and sharing stories of hope and compassion with our volunteers, their families and friends and the community.
Throughout the year, our CASA volunteers have been spending countless hours ensuring that our community's most vulnerable are heard. They act as legal advocates for abused and neglected children, speaking up for their best interests in court and in the community. Meanwhile, our Childcare volunteers have been providing care for children in foster care while their foster parents are in continuing education classes. They have helped to surround children with strong, adult role models.
Being a volunteer is not an easy task. Preparations are filled with loads of information. They share the sorrow and joy with the kids and listen to their deepest concerns. They feel happy and blessed when seeing kids end up in safe homes, but might also experience frustration and anxiety when the best place available is not where they ideally desire. But after going through all the process, it is always rewarding to see a positive difference being made in children’s lives.
Now it is time for us to celebrate and to express the deepest gratitude. Thank you to all our volunteers for your dedication, your love for children, and the positive impact you have made in children’s lives.
Thank you to everyone that attended our Volunteer Appreciation on Thursday, April 28th. The weather was beautiful, the food was delicious, and it was wonderful to see so many dedicated child advocates and supporters!
Congratulations to the following award winners:
Monika Dobbs - The Linda and Jerry Strickland Volunteer of the Year
Kelsey Chandler - Childcare Volunteer of the Year
Beth Johnston - Volunteer Voice of the Year.
A special thank you to Trumps Catering and Sally and Mark Barnes for their help with this event. Check out photos below or on our Facebook Page.
Children First is now recruiting community volunteers interested in being legal advocates for abused and neglected children in our community. We will be holding our Fall 2010 CASA Training Session during the month of September. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), you speak for a child who's been neglected, abused, ignored, and has now entered the child welfare system.You'll be trained. You'll have a cause. With a first and last name.
CASA volunteers are community members just like you. Ordinary people doing the extraordinary. To find out more, click here
Thank you to everyone that came to our Volunteer Appreciation BBQ on Saturday! We had a great time, in spite of the rain. It was wonderful to have staff, board members, and community supporters all come together and celebrate the achievements fo Children First Volunteers!
On Tuesday, February 23rd, JUSTGeorigia and the CASA Network will "come together to highlight their commitment to Georgia's children." The event will take place from 9:40am-12noon in The Blue Room of the Freight Depot on 65 Martin Luther King Jr, Dr. in Atlanta, Georgia.
This will be an event you do not want to miss, so please RSVP by February 19th by clicking here
February training for Athens-Oconee CASA volunteers begins today. We have a talented and diverse group of 14 individuals for this session, including lawyers, students, parents, grandparents, and teachers. Athens-Oconee CASA is really excited to be working with these trainees. They will attend sessions throughout the month of February and be sworn in as officers of the Juvenile Court in March. These trainees are on the path to become powerful advocates for abused and neglected children in our community.
The Athens-Oconee CASA program will be holding a Volunteer Orientation for all those interested in becoming a powerful voice in the life of a child. The Orientation will cover the role of a Court Appointed Special Advocate, the CASA training, and answer any questions that new volunteers may have.
CASA Volunteer Orientation
Tuesday, January 19th
@ the Children First office - 220 College Avenue Suite 517 in downtown Athens.
Please join us!for more information, contact the Children First office at 706-613-1922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.