Thank you to everyone that joined us for the National Family Reunification Month Proclamation & Celebration event on Monday, June 10th at Athens City Hall! The Commission Chamber was packed to over capacity, we heard some truly inspiring stories from parents, and celebrated the hard work families do to safely reunify. Check out the photos and video below!
Thank you to our Court Appointed Special Advocates!
A foster parent recently reached out to us to let us know how much having a CASA for their foster child meant. We love hearing how our volunteer impact the lives of children! Below are her words, edited only for confidentiality and clarity.
"I have been a foster parent for about 3 1/2 years. My first placement, I was never assigned a CASA, but at the time when you only know what you know, I did not know what I was missing. Then I had my second placement, and… [November of 2017], about 4 months into our case, we got a CASA... When she first contacted me and said she was assigned as the CASA for our foster daughter, I thought to myself that I have heard of CASAs before, but I also knew it was really special to get one! I called my private case worker to let her know and ask her what exactly to expect, as I had not had one before. And little did I know that having a CASA on our case was such a game changer for the best interest of children. As we all know, case workers have their plates full. But a CASA is a volunteer from the community who has been trained/mentored to look out for the best interest of the children. They are not paid by anyone, but a completely neutral person who wants what is best for the children in care, whether that be reunited with their rehabilitated parents, or recognizing a different path may be best. To do this, they invest in the children, they see the children, they hear the children and the say "you are important, what you think is important, and how you feel is important." They have relationships with all parties on the case and truly invest in the people, which includes the foster children as well as the biologically family. At one of our court hearings the judge said "if you did not have a CASA on this case, this case would look very different right now." Why? Because the CASA has the time, resources and support to investigate the details of the case, to provide as much information to DFCS and the Judge as possible so a holistic view of what is currently happening can be presented for the judge to rule accordingly or make changes or provide different or alternative services. And this is not to negate the role of a case worker or an attorney, it is to provide an extra tier of support and information when helping decide the outcome of peoples lives. When I think of the CASA, I think of her as a private investigator. And on top of it all, my little foster love, absolutely adores her CASA! She gets so excited when she knows she is going to get to see her and talk to her. And even at 4 years old, because there is the time to invest, my little foster love has sat and spilled her heart to her. Our CASA has also been able to advocate to help the children receive additional services that are needed. She is attached to every email sent out and knows more about our case then everyone, because it is her ONLY case. She has attended our foster daughter's visits with birth mom, she brought my little foster love a special little travel bag for her first flight on an airplane, she has gotten her a birthday present, she has see her tears, she has seen birth mom's tears.
It truly does take a village when it comes to Foster Care. There are all different people on a case, whether it is the foster parents, judge, case workers, attorneys, therapists, and teachers. Everyone has a specific and different role to play. My heart is that it would be possible for all cases to have a CASA. Adding CASAs to cases makes the team whole. One thing that I have learned while being a foster parent is we all do the best we can with what we have. This may apply to the birth parents, foster parents, the caseworkers, and even the judge. But one thing that can completely change a case is a CASA, as it allows us to DO our BEST because of what we HAVE. Thank you…[to our foster daughter's CASA].. for everything you do. You will forever be in our lives as someone who loved so well, and fought for what what best for those who could not fight for themselves. Love you!"
For 12 years, the mission of the Family Time Community Visitation Center has been to provide families separated by abuse or neglect with safe, supportive, supervised visitation in order to heal, grow, and reunify.
Today, we are announcing that the program will be closing its doors this summer.
Many challenges have led to this decision - including increased cost of operations, challenges in fundraising and meeting grant requirements, staff turnover and more. It was an extremely difficult decision that we struggled with for over a year, but it is the right decision given the circumstances.
Back in 2006, recognizing the gap in services regarding supportive and effective family visitation in our community, the Athens-Oconee CASA program began looking for ways to fill that gap. This desire to meet the needs of families led to the establishment of Family Time and the eventual creation of Children First, Inc. as an umbrella organization with several different programs. Over the years, Family Time went from 1 part time employee providing family visitation in the community - borrowed church playrooms, the library, etc - to 2 full time employees working out of our own beautiful Ralph Stephens Family Visitation Center at the Pope Street Cottage. This growth was due to the generosity and dedication of our community and we cannot thank you enough for your support over the years.
Though we are sad to close the program this summer, we know that the work done by Family Time - the hope given to families, the precious time to heal and grow, the dedication to best practices, and the unique nature of the program - is worth celebrating. Family Time has changed lives over the past 12 years.
Join us in celebrating the good work that Family Time has done in our community! Thursday, May 30th, from 4-6pm, we will come together to celebrate and say farewell to the Family Time Community Visitation Center. Please join us for refreshments and memories at the Pope Street Cottage - 693 North Pope Street, Athens, GA 30601
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