As you know, I am the new Executive Director of Children First. One of the hardest things to do after replacing someone who has been a well known and passionate advocate, such as Christain Orobello, is to bring the work of the organization back into focus after an extend search process. Our professional staff and devoted board members are terrific resources that are ready to go do real good in our community, so that process is made easier in our case.
In an effort to refocus the efforts of Children First, both the board and staff undertook separate retreats to answer the following question:
"What initiatives and activities must this organization undertake and/or complete in the next three years to give Children First the stability, resources and leadership to meet its mission of ensuring the children of our community are quickly returned to safe, secure and permanent living environments?"
As a stakeholder and community member, we'd love to hear your thoughts on this question. I feel it is a valuable exercise to critically examine the motivation of and reasons for the work we do advocating for children and families in our community. Hopefully, we can count on you to help us do that.
We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please comment below to let us know what you think.
Thank you for helping to Put Children First.
Executive Director, Children First, Inc.
Congratulations to our 4 newest CASA Volunteers! They were sworn in as officers of the court last Thursday by Juvenile Court Judge Shearer in front of an audience or supportive families and friends. Thank you to everyone that came to celebrate their graduation from training and we wish these new advocates the best of luck as they begin speaking up for a child in need!
“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.
On March 1, our eight new volunteer advocates of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program were sworn in at the Children First Pope Street Cottage. They will advocate for 10-15 abused and neglected children in the Athens-Oconee court system.
These volunteers, as appointed by a juvenile court judge, will be gathering information about the children’s cases, attend all court proceedings and give independent reports to the judge in the best interest of the children. They will help to ensure that the children they speak for will have a safe and permanent home as quickly as possible.
Carol Pickersgill, one of our volunteers, expressed her excitement for this moment and cannot wait to start working. “I’ve already made an appointment to see my girl to get things moving forward.” said Carol. Knowing that the little girl likes to read Stephen King, Carol decided to bring her a book of Stephen King and a snickers bar for her. At the same time, the volunteers are also aware that being a CASA means taking responsibilities. “It’s an awesome responsibility in every sense of the word.” said Julie Bower, a new CASA volunteer.
An appreciation dinner was followed after the swearing in. Friends and families celebrated this special moment together with our volunteers and staff. More pictures of the ceremony and celebration can be found on our EVENTS
page and FACEBOOK
Our Athens-Oconee CASA program now has 54 volunteers working with over 110 children. We are currently recruiting new volunteers for its May training session. You can find the information on the CASA page of our Website by clicking HERE
Susan Williams has been a CASA volunteer for the past four years and has truly embodied the work of a CASA and what it means to advocate for a child in need. She resides in Bogart, GA and is a wife and mother of three. After she heard about CASA from a friend who learned the program from the Athens Banner-Herald, Susan was immediately intrigued and couldn't wait to learn more. Having some previous experience with the foster system, Susan knew this would be a great fit for her. With the career background as an architect, her precision and eye for detail shows in the meticulousness in which she maintains her CASA notes and files.
In her four years with the program, Susan notes that there are some ups and downs that come along with the territory. She finds one of the most challenging aspects of being a CASA is the heart-broken feeling that can come along with the job. “Sometimes kids end up in the best place available, but not where you ideally desire” she says. On the other hand, Susan finds it utterly rewarding knowing that her time, effort and passion to help will potentially better the outcome of a child’s life because a CASA was there to speak for them. The most valuable lesson Susan takes away from this experience is the fact that the work is truly worth the investment of yourself and your time. The advice she gives to future CASA volunteers would be to utilize your resources, run all information, questions and concerns by your supervisor and rely on the support they give. Susan is truly dedicated to her position and has made a difference in her community and in the lives of the children she has advocated for.
Renaldo Stover, one of our dedicated CASA Volunteers, was interviewed at the 2010 National CASA Conference. Renaldo talks about his work with a teen in foster care, his dedication to family connections, and his efforts to give this teen opportunities for success. Take a few moments to hear his story.Click here to find out more about Renaldo and his work as a child advocate.
Thank you to everyone who helped with our recent CASA Recruitment effort! We held our Volunteer Orientation for prospective CASA Trainees and we are excited to have 14 potential Trainees for our Fall 2010 Session. Thank you especially to WUGA, the Flagpole and HandsOnNortheast Georgia for their efforts to recruit advocates for abused and neglected children. Training begins September 7th and these new advocates in training will spend then next month learning to be a powerful voice in the life of a child. Thank you also to Hester Nguyen and Beth Johnston, 2 current CASAs that came to speak to the new recruits. Beth and Hester were able to answer many questions and speak about their own experiences, expertise, successes, and challenges as child advocates.
Please join us in welcoming these new Court Appointed Special Advocates in training. We applaud their interest and dedication to serving some of the most vulnerable youth and families in our community!
We had such a great time at CASA Day at the Braves Game! There were around 500 CASA Advocates and supporters at the game! We got to meet some of the team, and Georgia CASA received the State Farm Good Neighbor award on the field. Also, we were able to get some balls and memorabilia signed by a few star players! These items will be raffled off as part of this year's Casa Mia, Mi Corazon Event.
Check out the photo gallery before to see all the fun we had at the game. We hope you can join us next year!