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Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, parents, judges and child advocates join together to do something great – create forever families. National Adoption Day is a collective effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children waiting in foster care. This one-day offers communities across the country the opportunity to finalize adoptions and celebrate adoptive families.
Since 2000, National Adoption Day has grown from nine events in its first year to more than 400 events in
2011 with nearly 4,800 adoptions finalized across the United States.
In Clarke and Oconee Counties, we have seen 12 children adopted over the past year. We are so happy for these families!!! Here are some ways that you can help spread the word about adoption - particularly adoption from Foster Care. There are approximately 100,000 children in foster care waiting for a forever home on any given day. One way you can help raise awareness for National Adoption Day is by dispelling some of the facts about foster care adoption. See the fact sheet below.
You can also learn more about adoptions from foster care by seeing some of the stories of those that have adopted. Here are some great adoption day stories. What are some other ideas you have for celebrating National Adoption Day?
Melissa Schofield has been a CASA volunteer for the past year and a half. She first discovered the CASA program about ten years ago at a festival in Five Points where she stumbled across a CASA volunteer booth. Unable to get involved with the program then, Melissa kept CASA in the back of her mind and hoped that someday she would have the time to become a volunteer. The time did come for her schedule to open up some, and she finished her training in March of 2012.
Melissa currently has two cases – one that she was assigned right out of training, and another that she’s had for about a year now. She says that the most rewarding part of being a CASA is, “knowing you are making a real difference.” When Melissa was going through training she thought that she would be, “merely making sure everyone involved in that particular case was following through on their obligations.” However, she has since seen that her voice truly does matter, and she has a significant amount of influence over the outcome for these children.
She says that this amount of influence leads to the most challenging part of being a CASA, which is trying to make the best decision about where a child should be placed. Melissa strongly urges anyone who, “loves kids and has a protective nature” to become a CASA volunteer because, “this is a good place to use those strengths to help the most vulnerable in our society.” Thanks for all your hard work and dedication, Melissa!
We are very excited about our current CASA training group of 10 community volunteers that will soon take on the responsibility of advocating for abused and neglected children. The group meets every Thursday for 5 weeks, learning about the role of a CASA, the child welfare system, and issues affecting children and families in our community. Please join us for the Swearing In Ceremony and Open House on Monday, October 7th at Children First to celebrate these new volunteers graduation from Trainee to CASA!
The second week of CASA Volunteer training met last Thursday night for an evening of continued education about their upcoming experience with Athens-Oconee CASA and every aspect that goes in to making their advocacy for a child successful. With ten volunteers-in-training and four current volunteers who stopped by to share their wealth of knowledge and experiences with the group, the training was full of learning, insight and questions.
Children First’s summer friend-raising series, “Stories from Childhood: From a Tiny Acorn,” got off to a rousing start with three amazing memoirs from prominent Athenians. About 40-50 people attended each of the July sessions: Doc Eldridge, former Athens-Clarke County Mayor and current head of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce; the Reverend Archibald “ A.R.” Killian, retired businessman and one of the first two black policemen in Athens; and Claude Williams, communications entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Mr. Eldridge discussed how, in high school, he worked with Michael Thurmond, former Georgia Secretary of Labor, to defuse racial tensions during school integration. He also reminisced about how small Athens was during his childhood -- the Beechwood area was in the country.
Mr. Killian recalled paying five cents a week for a good preschool education. He also talked about letting white students from the University of Georgia eat at his restaurant, Killian’s Four Seasons. That is, until Governor Lester Maddox personally came to tell him to stop.
Mr. Williams remembered narrowly escaping injury in the deadly 1936 Gainesville tornado because he stopped at a friend’s house while walking to elementary school. He said that his parents instilled in him a love of education, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to charitable giving.
"I donated the changing table because your organization spoke to a deep part of me.
We are so thankful to the family that donated this wonderful changing table to the Family Time Community Visitation Center! It has made family visitations much more comfortable and homelike. We have been able to use the changing table in order to not only teach parents how to properly change their child's diaper, but also how to use that time to bond with their little ones. Donations like these are pivotal to our mission of providing families a safe, nurturing, home-like setting in which to heal and grow. Thank you!
Children First is launching a 7-week series called "Stories from Childhood: From a Tiny Acorn" on July 14th. Each week's event will feature one of seven iconic figures in and around Athens who will tell about the challenges, happy times, and cultural happenings that marked his or her childhood.
Each speaker will be interviewed by another notable Athenian in a lively conversation. For example, Flagpole editor Pete McCommons will interview Doc Eldridge in the kick-off event on July 14th, and Clarke County district school board member Vernon Payne will interview Bertis Downs on August 18th.
We will be working on having audio, video, and commentary available on our website for those that miss any of the events. We hope you all can join us for this exciting series!
Click HERE to read an article about the event at OnlineAthens.
We want to extend a huge thanks to the UGA Kappa Alpha Thetas for raising almost $10,000 for our CASA program through their CASA Fiesta this past semester. CASA is the Theta sorority's national philanthropy and the UGA chapter has been an invaluable partner in our program's work with abused and neglected children in the community. Thank you to everyone that attended the event and to all the Theta's that have worked so hard to give children a voice.
See photos of the event by clicking on "Read More" below!
It was such an honor this year to go to the National CASA conference in Anaheim, CA. Jane and I were very excited to attend. I was happy to represent one of the many GA CASA programs amongst so many other programs around the country. It was nice to see so many people working in such similar arenas, having the same joys and struggles. The reminder that the CASA program is much larger than Athens, Ga was humbling. We were all a unit working for the same thing, permanence for children. There are a lot of people trying to make a difference in a child’s life. Here are a couple of the topics I learned and what actions to take:
Trauma informed care: Trauma can be anything from a car accident, divorce, death in the family to severe physical and sexual abuse; it is how the person interprets it. There are different types of trauma: acute one incident, chronic multiple incidents and complex incidents, which are all coming from someone that is supposed to be providing care for these children and keeping them safe.
It is best to treat trauma as early as possible, rather than waiting. Some of our children’s diagnosis may be trauma rather than ADHD, RAD, depression, etc. Children in foster care need to have a trauma assessment. The assessment can be traumatic for the child and parents alike.
Trauma affects the brain and body. Many children blame themselves for the trauma and that guilt and shame are the #1 predictors of PTSD.
Trauma transmits across generations, where high risk behaviors persists in families.
How to go about it: Take a trauma-informed child welfare system approach, which means that the child is at the center. Focus on safety physical and psychological safety. Focus on determining and screening for trauma. Create a proper caseplan for their trauma. Enhancing resilience for children and families, support and promote positive relationships for children. Every interaction with the children is an intervention. Partner with families and child.
To treat it, trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is a good approach. There is a good possibility that parents and foster parents should be involved, anyone that will be long term supportive whether they have custody or will have custody or not. Age range from (3-5) all the way to 18. Another form of therapy is Child- Parent Psychotherapy (CPP).
The Georgia CASA Conference 2013 took place on Saturday, March 16 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta.
CASA chapters from all over the state came and met to learn and discuss how to improve their CASA program. The conference consisted of a dozen different workshops that educated CASA volunteers, administrators and staff on how to make an even bigger impact on the life of a child in need.
Tasha Nicholson, a CASA Volunteer at Children First, attended the Georgia CASA Conference and came away with a positive experience.
“My biggest take away, Nicholson said, is that all kids who are removed from the only family they've known have experienced trauma. DFCS recognizes that kids need therapy but if the therapist isn't a trauma informed specialist it could actually be more harmful.”
State Division of Family and Children Services, “DFCS”, has started new programs to help with this specific problem. By hiring trauma informed therapists to act as a consultant on cases at the local area insure that the therapy is at the level it should be.
However, Nicholson’s shared her concerns in the lack of available certified therapists in specific areas of the state. What do you do when the proper therapist just is not there?
Nicholson also attended a teen parent seminar while at the conference. The seminar was conducted by an organization called Teen Connections; they serve the teen parent Nicholson works with.
“It truly takes a huge team of different individuals to work with these young mothers,” said Nicholson. “How do teen moms financially support a baby, where should the mother and child live, how does child care come into play, etc. I've struggled finding the answers for my teen mom, and hope I can work closer to her life coach to make her successful.”
Overall Nicholson said that conference moral was high and people were excited about what they had accomplished. “We are all a big family and even though there were people from rural to big city CASA programs we all have the same mission in mind. We have some of the same struggles as other programs. It is comforting to know that I'm not the only one struggling.”
The Court Improvement Initiative Conference was held March 7th and 8th at the Ridges Resort in beautiful Hiawasee, which is in Northeast Georgia. Juvenile Court Judges, members of the Department of Family and Children Services, and other related agencies discussed, learned and brainstormed how to improve court procedures and implement “best practices.”
Susie Weller, CASA Volunteer Coordinator at Children First, attended the conference and came out pleased. Susie’s biggest take away was what she learned from the session about the new HB 242 Bill.
“This bill means big changes that will affect both Dependency and Delinquency court hearings”, said Weller. “The biggest change to me is that all children are now required to have attorneys, this means I will have to make some adjustments.”
Other topics of discussion included how to improve how medication is monitored in the foster system, the effectiveness of the video messaging program Skype in a case, and how to continue to educate advocates about and enforce the continued practice of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
The Initiative is growing in number of supporters and the concept is getting larger. Feedback is positive and communities are working together toward a common goal. Weller adds, “It is nice to know we are all moving in the right direction.”
For more information about The Court Improvement Initiative in Georgia please visit: http://w2.georgiacourts.org/cj4c/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=64