May is National Foster Care Month

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In observance of National Foster Care Month in May, CASA Clark County greatly appreciates Clark County foster families who have opened their homes and remained resilient, as well as our CASA volunteers who have continued to make a difference in the lives of children during the pandemic.

On any given day, there are nearly 423,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States. A child in foster care may have experienced, physical, psychological and/or emotional trauma, only to endure long periods of uncertainty in the system as they wait to go home, be adopted, or simply see what happens next. CASA Clark County along with more than 900 programs across the country, serves more young people in the child welfare system than any other national organization. Take some time this month to consider how all of us working together can help identify the right mix of supports to establish meaningful connections for children and youth in care.

You can visit the National Foster Care Month website to find out how you can work together with your community to do the following:

  • Share these inspiring stories to teach communities the importance of coming together to build meaningful connections for youth in foster care.
  • Help educate the public by sharing information and resources. Use the hashtag #FosterCareMonth to help spread the word!
  • Learn how child welfare agencies from across the country are working to change their culture and practice to ensure foster care is a support to families.

By authentically engaging youth and families throughout the pandemic our volunteers have contributed to increased family stabilization and expedited reunification and permanency for children in foster care here in Clark County. Having a CASA volunteer, a caring, consistent adult—someone who listens, checks in, follows up, holds the system accountable, and puts the child’s best interests before all others’—can make all the difference. Even during the current phase of the pandemic, as children and youth placed in the foster care system, families and surrounding communities try to regain a sense of normalcy, CASA volunteers are still needed now more than ever. Lend your voice for youth in foster care and take the first step towards becoming a CASA volunteer by registering for one of our upcoming information sessions.

 

 

 

 

Walk. Run. Thrive!

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On May 1-2, 2021, join Clark County CASA in the National CASA/GAL Association for Children’s nationwide Walk. Run. Thrive!

Help us reach our goal to raise awareness for the important work of CASA programs and volunteers! By participating in this virtual event, you can walk or run wherever you are and at your own pace while sharing your support for our mission. Interested? Register through the National CASA/GAL website to receive a signature event t-shirt and be part of our nationwide movement!

This is a great way for you as a CASA and GAL supporter nationwide to show support for the work we do serving children and families. You can expand your impact by inviting your friends and family to support your walk or run with a donation to our program. Send them a simple message saying,

“I’m participating in Walk. Run. Thrive. to show my support for @National CASAGAL and the incredible work of CASA volunteers in Clark County. I hope you’ll support my walk/run with a donation to Clark County to help them support children and families in our community: casaclarkcounty.org.”

Local to Clark County? Join our staff and volunteers as we walk together on Saturday May 1st at 9:00a.m. on the Burnt Bridge Trail.

We’ll be starting at the trailhead a couple of blocks off the intersection of 90th and Burton Road and will turn around shortly beyond Andreson. If you would like to learn more about the life-changing work we do our staff will be at the trailhead between 9:00a.m. to 11:00a.m.

All CDC health recommendations will be encouraged including wearing masks and social distancing. 

 

CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH’S PINWHEELS FOR PREVENTION COLORING CONTEST

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Join Clark County CASA in raising awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month (CAPM) with our Pinwheels For Prevention coloring contest!

In 2008 Prevent Child Abuse America launched their Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to help support their vision “for a world where children grow up happy, healthy, and prepared for success in families and communities,” free from abuse or neglect. We’ve adopted their pinwheel symbolism to find a way those young and old can use creativity in preventative action against child abuse.

Print out our coloring page below, or pick one up from one of our sponsors at Grocery Outlet Vancouver, Grocery Outlet Hazel Dell or Rosauers in Ridgefield and let the creative juices flow! When your masterpiece is complete send it back in to us either by email, sharing on our Facebook page or mail it to our home office to be entered to win a prize! At the end of the month we’ll select two winners, one under 18 and one over 18. Make sure you provide yours or a parent or guardian’s preferred contact information so we can reach you if you’re selected as a winner!

 

You can find more ways to support Clark County CASA and take action during Child Abuse Prevention Month with our digital calendar of events.

Mailing Address: CASA Clark County/YWCA Clark County Office, 3609 Main Street,  Vancouver, WA, 98663

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

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April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month and we’ve planned an entire month’s worth of activities for our community to participate in!

Beginning today through April 30th we encourage you to take a look at this digital calendar to see how you and your family can adopt healthy practices, have fun and raise awareness for child abuse and the work that Clark County CASA does to support youth who have experienced it.

We’re calling on YOU to help participate in our:

  • Coloring contest with local sponsors Vancouver Grocery Outlet, Hazel Dell Grocery Outlet and Rosauers
  • Digital Easter egg hunt on our website
  • Change for CASA fundraising campaign at both Grocery Outlet locations
  • Wear Blue Wednesday social media challenge
  • Pinwheel planting event with Children’s Justice Center

Looking to take it a step further? Invite a friend and register for one of our upcoming information sessions to learn more about how you can be an advocate for children in foster care.

The Common Good – Part 2

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Back in November, Program Director Sheryl Thierry and Volunteer Mentor Dawn Montgomery were welcomed on as guests to KXRW’s The Common Good. After giving a history of our program along with an overview of operations during COVID both women sat down with host Joe Clemens to share some of the real stories of children and families within care that they’ve personally impacted.

“Regardless of how many foster homes, social workers, how many therapists, how many teachers pass through this child’s life while in the care of the state I remain the same,” – Dawn Montgomery, CASA Advocate and Volunteer Mentor.

After a three-year-old child was located in a drug bust and placed into care Dawn was appointed as the CASA on the case. The mother’s issues were significant  – substance use disorder, insecure housing, employment and no semblance of stability for her or her child. After two separate foster homes and a total of eighteen months in care Dawn knew she needed to advocate for what was in the best interest of the child and asked mom some tough questions, “Where do you see your child in 10 years?” Although mom was no longer attending visits with the child she was still very much involved in the conversations surrounding relinquishment and what her daughter needed. After a very gentle conversation with Dawn and the social worker the mother agreed it would be best for her daughter if mom relinquished her parental rights and the focus turned to finding a forever home for this child. This little girl found permanency in adoption and Dawn was invited by the family to be a part of that celebration. Through her work as an advocate Dawn had helped changed this girl’s life.

We are looking for a volunteer who is devoted to children and family because through a child focused lens we can often time see it is in the child’s best interest to reunify the family which is what we strive for.

After being appointed to a case Sheryl met the mother of a two-year-old boy who had been removed due to neglect. When Sheryl first met the mother it was apparent she loved her child and was an amazing person. She first took this opportunity to encourage mom that she could do this. The case started off rough, mom was still using substances and battling substance abuse, she hadn’t addressed her mental health and a difficult relationship with the assigned social worker but Sheryl recognized it was in the best interest of this little boy to be reunited with his mother and encouraged mom to participate in a specialty therapeutic court that would provide additional forms of support. At first reluctant, mom did sign into the program and was very successful. She received in patient treatment at a facility where her child was able to be placed with her. The bond between the mother and child was strong and apparent for anyone to see. It was less than two years before the case was dismissed with mom clean and sober and the child thriving in her care. There were cheers and clapping in court when the dismissal took place which Sheryl relays as a really special thing.

“There are some beautiful outcomes as a result of this work,” – Joe Clemens, The Common Good host.

Dawn’s most recent case was a long-standing one involving a family in which domestic violence and behavioral issues were involved to the point that the criminal justice system was involved. After a period of time the mother completed intensive services, established stable housing and the children were able to be returned home on a trial basis. CASA along with the courts are still monitoring the case with the children at home while mom worked on completing in home services. The most rewarding part is seeing the children settle back in with their mother after all this time.

If you’re reading this and recognizing this is work you want to become involved in we want you to know that Volunteer Mentors like Dawn are here to help support our newest volunteers recruits. You’re also assigned a staff supervisor so you are never alone in this work which can make it feel less intimidating. You can be a part of making a lasting impact on children and help make our community a better place to live.

Statement on Events at the U.S. Capitol

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As a program of the YWCA Clark County we adopt this statement from YWCA USA regarding events occurring at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th 2021.

In light of the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO, YWCA USA released the following statement:

“The scene that unfolded in our nation’s capital yesterday was a disgrace to our democracy and  a bleak day for our nation. History will justifiably record the violent efforts to halt the confirmation of a fair democratic election decided by the American people as an insurrection and attempted coup.

While the news and photos of yesterday’s events will haunt us, let us remember that the day began with the historic election of the Reverend Raphael Warnock as the first Black Senator from the state of Georgia, and ended with the confirmed election of Jon Ossoff as the first Jewish Senator from the state of Georgia. Senators Warnock and Ossoff will join the most diverse Congress in our nation’s history, which includes 144 women, 52 of whom are women of color, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community and other historically marginalized communities.

At this pivotal moment, YWCA calls on all in our nation to ensure the peaceful transition of power. We stand with the American people, especially people of color, who have endured unrelenting efforts to divide, derail, and dishonor our most basic human and civil rights, and to discredit and silence women and people of color who demand a world of equity and human decency. Ensuring that women, communities of color, and all those who are marginalized are represented and that their voices are amplified and heard, is at the core of our efforts to improve economic security, prevent gender-based violence, ensure access to health care, and to eliminate policies and practices that criminalize people of color.

We encourage everyone to continue to join us as we work tirelessly to champion equality, to end gender discrimination, and to combat injustices across economic, political, and daily life that pose as barriers for so many. Together, let’s continue to do the work, until justice just is.”

CASA Volunteer Nominated for Silver Citizen Award

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Clark County Commission on Aging recognizes that older adults are valuable contributors to our community and have created a program to recognize those of whom go above and beyond in their service. Our very own Jan Ratzman was nominated for the work she does to improve the lives of children in foster care as a CASA volunteer!

Jan has been advocating for the best interests of youth in care for SEVEN YEARS and has helped change the lives of twenty-three children! Her commitment to our program ensures that the children under her watch will have a consistent caring adult presence in an otherwise incredibly tough chapter of their lives. She makes a lifelong difference for each and every one of these children. We are inspired by her work and are so thankful to have her as part of our team.

Congratulations Jan!

Meet An Everyday Hero, Yolanda

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“Checking in with the kids I advocate for is always a bright spot in my day.”

Even after three years as a CASA volunteer, Yolanda continues to be inspired by the foster youth she works with. She describes their resiliency and enthusiasm for life as simply – amazing.  The relationship that she provides them as a safe and supportive adult in an otherwise tumultuous time in their lives is a big factor in building that sense of resiliency. As their CASA, she can be the one consistent adult presence in a child’s life.

So what drew her in to the role in the first place? She learned of the desperate need for volunteers and felt that it was such a great way to positively impact her community and more specifically a vulnerable child’s life. The work of researching and advocating to ensure the kids needs and concerns are met is what she attributes as her greatest contribution to the program. All of this is done with a sensitivity to the unique challenges and perspectives of the child she’s advocating for.

You get to make a positive difference, AND you get the joy of getting to know some amazing kids and families. – Yolanda M.

As all of our volunteers, Yolanda agreed to commit to two years with our program to ensure a level on consistency for the child(ren) she works with. Yet a year and half beyond her two years she continues to show up and do the work. Why? In part because of the support that our program offers. She explains that plenty of ongoing training and excellent mentoring and finds that her staff supervisor is always available and and responsive to questions she may have.  She also enthusiastically encourages others to take part in the work saying, “Do it!”

If you’re as motivated by Yolanda as we are consider joining us for a virtual information session to learn more. Schedules and registration links are available here. You can also contact our Volunteer Recruiter, Gwen Anderson at ganderson@ywcaclarkcounty.org

Community Partner Shout Out

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In a time when our economy has been hit hard by what seems to be a never ending pandemic we know that small businesses need our support now more than ever. That’s why we want to recognize the local small businesses that have stepped up to support our mission to provide quality advocacy for foster children so that they may thrive in a safe, permanent home as soon as possible. Each of these businesses work towards building a stronger Southwest Washington community in various ways and we’re proud to identify them as community partners.

Paper Tiger Coffee Roasters

A low-key neighborhood coffeehouse that roasts Direct Trade and Fair Trade coffees from all over the world. You can see (and smell) them roasting coffee in house daily. What’s more – they’ve been recognized for their inclusion work with students from WA. School for the Deaf and the WA State School for the Blind as well as hosting yours truly for a Coffee with CASA event and displaying our information session bulletins.

Giving Group Realty

A group of realtors who take an active interest in their community and causes by donating 10% of the total of each and every commission to reputable charities (like CASA!) of their client’s choosing. Their agents felt the call on their hearts to do something that makes a difference. They’ve donated over $57,000.00 to date!

Davidson & Associates Insurance

Each month, a different nonprofit (including CASA!) is selected by their team to be a “Referral Rewards Partner” in which they use their community networks to bring awareness to the causes that nonprofit partners works tirelessly to support. They give $25 for each referral back to the selected non-profit whether or not the client decides to use Davidson & Associates for their insurance needs.

KXRW

A local values driven-driven radio station that is dedicated to delivering quality programming with an emphasis on local voices. They aim to build a stronger community, based on inclusion, diversity and social justice in Southwest Washington and beyond. Catch their broadcast of The Common Good with our Program Director Sheryl Thierry and Volunteer Mentor Dawn Montgomery to hear the perspective of a volunteer and what working a case really is like.

3 Peaks

A Public House and Taproom providing local hand crafted beers on tap with a great atmosphere that’s known for its great brews and family friendly environment. During warmer weather months you can find the lawn full with bands, yard games and plenty of space for kids to run and play around picnic tables. You may also catch a peak of our yard sign on their grounds!

Fairway Coffee

A family run independently owned coffee shop serving up Stumptown Coffee and just this year celebrated 7 years in business! You can find yummy goodies (including ice cream!) to pair with your morning pick me up. They’re also one of our earliest supporters in hosting a Coffee with CASA event.

If you’re interested in learning more about ways you can partner with us, including participating in our Change A Child’s Story Campaign contact our Outreach Coordinator, Gwen Anderson at ganderson@ywcaclarkcounty.org to get more information.

The Common Good – Part One

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Our fearless Program Director, Sheryl Thierry and rock star Volunteer Mentor, Dawn Montgomery were recently welcomed on KXRW’s The Common Good, in which they showcase the collective achievements that contribute to a positive and well informed community. Host Joe Clemens started by introducing our program as “a volunteer powered network of people from all walks of life who believe society has a fundamental obligation to help children in need” – we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

“Our job is to discover what that child needs to be successful in foster care,” Program Director, Sheryl Thierry.

Sheryl began by giving a history of our program explaining we have been partnered with YWCA Clark County since almost its conception because there is a very strong connection between the mission of both organizations. Our volunteers are independent advocates for children that come into the care of the state. We are not social workers. We are absolutely independent and our job is to discover what that child needs to be successful in foster care and hopefully reunify with their parent, if not able to do that safely then we find a safe and permanent home for that child as quickly as possible. We focus on the best interest of the child and that’s what we tell the court. Our job is to make recommendations based on the best interest of the child.

After hearing a history of our program Joe asked Dawn to share a bit about what our operations look like in the realm of COVID. Dawn explains that every 30 days our volunteers are used to seeing their kids and checking in with them but because of the pandemic we had to curtail face to face visit in the foster home or the relative’s home or wherever the child is placed. Now that children and advocates are using video calls there is less privacy which leads to children not feeling as comfortable sharing things that are really troubling them. That together with the attention span of kids makes a real challenge to get a quality visit and the type of visit we were used to having with our kids. But the bigger issue is that fewer people are seeing children and so kids experiencing abuse have flown under the radar.

“There are fewer calls coming into hotlines around the country, the severity of the abuse once the children come to the attention of the authorities, usually be law enforcement or emergency rooms, that abuse has become exasperated and the injuries are greater.”

Dawn continues by explaining that the fear is the potential of a flood of kids coming into care after they’re back in school and how that will stretch resources very thin and overwhelm the system. All age appropriate children who are in care and custody of the state should have a voice in court and to have representation in court and that’s what we do, especially now.

Right now we’re looking to expand our volunteer base to communities of color so we better mirror the children that we serve.

Ready to jump in and help? You’re likely just what we’re looking for. Sheryl describes our ideal volunteer as someone who is community minded and has a devotion to children and supporting both children and families. We like community members with different backgrounds both professionally and personally because it’s what brings a unique perspective to the job. Because it takes a typical case two years to resolve we ask for that commitment from our volunteers, someone who is committed and is in a position to stick with it. We also want to ensure that applicants are available and present for our extensive training which amounts to 50 hours over the course of 4 to 6 weeks. Right now we’re looking to expand our volunteer base to communities of color so we better mirror the children that we serve. We really want to pay attention to the demographics of the children and make sure that we can provide perhaps a Spanish speaking advocate if we have a Spanish speaking child for instance. So we’re really trying to reach out to those communities to pull in volunteers who can help us with the children of color who come into care.

All of this just outlines the formalities of what we do. Are you interested in hearing about the cases we work on and the real children and families involved? Stay tuned for our next post or listen to the full broadcast.