FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S DESK
It’s been an exciting few months for me here at CASA. I’d
like to thank the Board of Directors and the amazing dedicated staff and
volunteers of CASA Philadelphia for welcoming me with open arms and helping me
make a smooth transition to the Executive Director role. It’s truly been a
pleasure getting to know everyone and seeing firsthand what goes on behind the
scenes on a day to day basis to provide much needed advocacy for children and
youth in foster and congregate care.
Reflecting back on my first 60 days, I am reminded that a
lot can be done in a short time. We’ve had the opportunity to meet with
Administrative Judge Murphy and Supervising Judge Olszewski from Family Court,
we met with Luciana Terrell the director of the DHS Education Support Center and
were able to present to and get feedback from CUA Case Management Directors.
Our new Educational Decision Maker (EDM) program coordinator is pulling
together a workgroup of key stakeholders in Philadelphia to partner with us on
this much needed program. We have three Temple BSW interns who have jumped
right in and are providing CASA services to children as well as working on some
The EDM program, with the generous support of the Impact100
grant, has begun doing stand- alone trainings for EDM volunteers, in
partnership with the Education Law Center. The first training was held on
September 8th with an enthusiastic group of 14 potential volunteers.
We are just wrapping the fall pre-service training for CASA volunteers.
Eighteen volunteers participated and will complete their court observation in
early November and are on track to be able to take cases by the New Year.
You may have heard CASA board members and volunteers were
answering the phones in the early morning hours of Oct. 21st for the
WHYY fund drive. CASA got several on air mentions and we did such a great job,
we were told we were ready for TV next!
The 4th Annual CASA Superhero Run/Walk took place
on October 30th. This year’s event was part of the Generosity Series
Philly 5k. Thank you so much to
our individual donors and corporate sponsors.
CASA of Philadelphia is launching its Speaker Series on November 10th.
The first talk will be given by Debra Schilling Wolfe, Ex. Director of The
Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice and Research. Please join us for
this event. We are pleased to announce
the CLE credit will be available.
These are just some of the highlights! We’ve got more things planned, so stay
Happi Grillon, MSW
SUPERHERO WALK: THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR SUPERHEROES!
October 31, 2016
On October 30th, staff, volunteers, board members, and all of
our wonderful supporters came out to CASA’s 4th Annual 5K Run/Walk. Special thanks to Generosity Philly for
sponsoring this amazing event! We loved
being a part of such a great community. And
thank you so much to our individual donors and corporate sponsors Saul Ewing
LLP, Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney PC, PECO, Conservest, Archer & Greiner PC,
Schnader, Kurchner-Hawkins and Health Partners Plans.
A VOLUNTEER STORY
By, CASA and EDM Volunteer Jessica Heckman
My seventeen year old CASA kid and I had a heated texting
session last week. I get that she’s a teenager, but she’s also still a minor,
and although she may think she knows everything, she doesn’t — wow, I sound
like my parents. Little does she know that despite my talking to her mother
more than her this past month, I’m still her biggest fan.
A little under four years ago, I received my ﬁrst CASA
case, involving three children, initiated by a revelation that the father of
the youngest was involved in sexual relations with the oldest, who was twelve
at the time. All of the kids were in different homes; all had their own
disabilities and trauma. I went to meet them, visited them every few weeks, and
talked to their biological mom, foster parents, group home facilitators,
therapists, teachers, friends, case workers, and grandparents. I went to
supervised visits where I watched them interact with each other, their mother,
and their grandmother, and I witnessed simple disputes escalate to full blown
The ﬁrst time I testiﬁed in court, the mother abruptly
disagreed with everything I said and chased after me outside afterwards only to
curse me out and burst into tears as her world fell apart. I had to keep
telling myself I that I was brave, patient, compassionate, and hopeful. I
continued with my visits. I watched caseworker turnover. I had moments where I
felt so frustrated with our placement system. I received calls telling me H,
the oldest, was hit by a car. There were times when H would call me in the middle
of an AWOL saying she was safe. I learned quickly who my good sources were. I
learned that paperwork is painful to wait for especially when I am so desperate
for my kids. Don’t they know how badly these kids need help?
Each time court was coming up, it seemed that something
bad happened. Eventually the youngest was reuniﬁed. Then, the second oldest.
But it was my teenage girl H who struggled. H is pretty, smart, and sensitive
on the inside — and tough on the outside. H and I are ﬁfteen years apart. H could
call me on a Friday night angry and frustrated and then Saturday morning call
all sweet like nothing happened the night before. Three years of foster homes,
group homes, supervised visitation, unsupervised visitation, AWOLing, pregnancy
tests, drug tests, and failing school to missing nearly seventy days of school
in one year. And now we were talking
about closing her case. Her mom had worked hard completing her goals, and had
even apologized to me for how she behaved when we first met. She now sees how
committed I am to her family and has actually expressed gratitude. And H is
actually doing pretty well. As I prepared my paperwork for court, I texted H
and I expressed my sadness over our last conversation (the heated text
conversation I mentioned earlier) and wanted to make sure she was okay. She
then told me something that is so rare at CASA — “I’m sorry and I’m so grateful
for you.” I reminded her that I was always there and I would always be there.
I testiﬁed in court today that H’s case was ready to be
closed. She has been home since the spring and was taking responsibility with
school and therapy. Things aren’t perfect, but watching her grow has been
incredible. For me, CASA is personal. Our kids are robbed from their childhood
and expected to recover and thrive. Our kids get taken from everything that they
know, they watch caseworkers come and go, and while they look resilient on the
outside, they hurt so deeply on the inside.
Two years ago I received my ﬁrst Educational Decision
Maker (EDM) case. Some of the issues with it I had already gone through with H.
When I asked H for advice on my new case, she told me to “never give up no
matter what.” I struggled with H at
times with the balance of being hard versus soft. I learned to let her make
mistakes and support her regardless. We end all conversations with “make good
choices” just as my parents did with me.
Being a CASA is not for everyone. I tell people it becomes
part of you. It’s not set hours or a Monday to Friday “thing.” It’s hard to
watch sometimes. It’s hard to do the right thing — like when you witness a threat or discover information that would
be lethal to your kid, you don’t just sit there. It’s hard to be screamed at,
have the phone hung up on you, and visit homes with mice and cockroaches
running by your feet. You learn to listen. You hear a teacher rave about
something in school, and you are filled with joy. You hear laughter and
friendly family banter in the living room when all of the family is there and
you are relieved. You hear a smiling voice through the phone when calling to
check up after reunifying a family, and you are grateful. You then remember at
those moments why H’s advice is so true. Never give up, no matter what.
HIGHLIGHTS IN ACHIEVING
Congratulations to CASA Volunteer Helen O’Neill whose CASA case recently closed successfully with an order of permanent legal custody (PLC.)
Congratulations to EDM Volunteer Lisa Dissinger whose EDM case recently closed. Her EDM youth is living with her maternal aunt who is now her legal guardian and educational decision-maker. |
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR FALL
2016 CASA PRE-SERVICE TRAINING CLASS!
SAVE THE DATE
NOVEMBER 10, 2016: “CRACKS IN THE SYSTEM AND THE GLUE THAT CAN SEAL
CASA Speaker Series
Philadelphia's child welfare system is the fourth largest
in the United States. But despite a
greater need than most states, the city's resources are fewer. Debra Schilling Wolfe
from the Field Center of Children's Policy, Practice & Research at The
University of Pennsylvania will discuss how children slip through the
network; Why children who age out of the
system become vulnerable to poor outcomes, including sex trafficking and drug
abuse; And why more Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA's) are needed. Q
& A to follow talk.
a.m. to 10:00 a.m
Ewing LLP, 1500 Market St., 38th Floor,
CLE credit is available; NJ CLE is pending
Register Here Now: http://bit.ly/2ebvQL6
If you are a CASA Volunteer,
you will also receive 1.5 hours of in-service training credits when you attend
JANUARY 19, 2017:
EDUCATIONAL DECISION MAKER (EDM) TRAINING
This year, CASA was awarded a grant from Impact100
Philadelphia to develop our Educational Decision Maker (EDM) program. An EDM volunteer is an individual who has
been screened and trained by CASA Philadelphia and appointed by the court to
serve as the legal “parent” for children in out-of-home care who do not have
anyone to make educational decisions on their behalf.
We are pleased to offer our next EDM training on January 19, 2017, from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm. This means that if you know someone who wants
to train just to be an EDM, not a
CASA volunteer, they can go to this one night of training, complete the
required clearances, and be eligible to become and EDM volunteer only. A background in education is preferred for
this stand-alone training.
Prospective EDM volunteers who have never trained with CASA must
submit their application and complete an interview with staff before being accepted
into the EDM training.
If you have already completed your CASA training, you will have
an opportunity to train to be an EDM later in the winter of 2017 at an EDM
training designed for already-trained CASA volunteers and you do not need to
resubmit an application or be interviewed again.
Contact Program Director Cynthia Mason at cynthia.mason@casaphiladelphia
for more information.
SUPPORT CASA PHILADELPHIA WITH
Think of CASA Philadelphia
when you are loading up your cart on Amazon!
Amazon Smile will donate to us each time you shop.
#StartWithaSmile at http://smile.amazon.com/ch/20-0744446 and Amazon donates.
The mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of
Philadelphia is to train and support community volunteers
to advocate for the health, safety, stability and well-being
of abused and neglected children.
November 10, 2016
CASA Speaker SeriesJanuary 19, 2017
For more information about any of our events, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum.
CASA of Philadelphia
Board of Directors
Education Law Center
Maureen Smith Lawrence, Esq.
Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller
Saul Ewing, LLP
Conservest Capital Advisors, Inc.
& Montague, P.C.
S. Hawkins, Esq.
Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, PC
Women Against Abuse
Shamyune Jones, Esq.
J. Lawler, Esq.
Archer & Greiner, P.C.
Joseph Nuccio, CPA
Lynanne M. Schaeffer
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Happi Grillon, MSW
Cynthia Mason, Esq.
Trish Kinkle, MSW
Carole Cornelius, MSW
Senior CASA Supervisor
Carletta Chandler, BSW
Terrill Carney, MA
Andrea Jelin, MS
EDM Program Coordinator
Cindy Blum, EdM
CASA of Philadelphia
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
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