Introducing CASA Volunteer Kristin Finley!

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Often times we find inspiration from those closest to us. In this instance, our volunteer witnessed the impact her mother had as a guardian ad litem for foster youth. That was nearly 40 years ago but resonated so deeply with her that she knew she wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who needed it most.

Join us in celebrating Kristin!

Kristin has been an advocate with our program for nearly two years and fairly recently experienced the most rewarding aspect within her role as a CASA; witnessing a child celebrate her long awaited adoption. Seeing the child’s immense joy and knowing that she played a part in that happy ending was most rewarding for Kristin. She acknowledges that there is still so much need for CASA volunteers and encourages anyone considering the role to be the difference in the life of a child.

But it’s not just about the end result. This compassionate woman explains that simply knowing the kiddos she supports understand she will be available to listen and to be their voice in ensuring their best interests are represented is what drives her. She’s also encouraged by her fellow volunteers and our staff members. As a new volunteer she felt supported by the thorough training and as a veteran she recognizes that the staff “are committed to making sure their volunteers have everything they need to be the best advocate possible.”

If you’ve been inspired by Kristin’s role as a CASA volunteer we invite you to join us Saturday July 25th at 12:00 noon, for our next virtual Informational Session. You are also welcome to contact our Volunteer Specialist, Cheryl White, at cwhite@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

We Support Racial Equity

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As a program of the YWCA Clark County, CASA adopts this statement regarding George Floyd as our own.

Eliminating racism represents a core value in YWCA’s quest for equity

YWCA Clark County condemns the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by Minneapolis Police. YWCA supports racial equity and, as such, we applaud the arrests of the four arresting officers. But those arrests fail to address the institutional, structural, and pervasive racism in the United States and in our local community.

Our mission is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. We recognize that racial justice requires a community effort, and we applaud those in Clark County who advocate for racial justice through their leadership and community involvement.

YWCA partners with the public schools on programs designed to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence. We were deeply disturbed and angered by the extremely insensitive remarks made via social media by former Clark County School Board Member Mark Stoker last week. Mr. Stoker’s remarks—made while he was serving on the board—were in reference to protests in Seattle against Mr. Floyd’s murder. He denied that his words were racist. But he resigned in the wake of rebukes from community members over his remarks.

“We cannot tolerate such insensitive behavior from elected officials”

In a statement addressing Mr. Stoker’s remarks, Jasmine Tolbert, YWCA Clark County’s Vice President of Public Policy said: “We cannot tolerate such insensitive behavior from elected officials. We hope this can be a learning opportunity for Mr. Stoker and the board of education.”

We urge Clark County residents to sign the NAACP’s petition for racial justice

NAACP Vancouver is our strong community partner in our fight for racial equity. Please join us in signing their petition calling for major reforms designed to address racism in the U.S.

The core reforms requested include:

  • Deliberate and intentional Criminal Justice Reform that ensures the protection of Black lives, the expansion of the Home Confinement Pilot Program under the First Step Act, and a reduction in sentence for non-offenders.
  • Expansive student loan relief to include a suspension of student loan payment until the economy gains strength, discharge of student loans for essential workers, and automatic cancellation of at least $20,000 in federal student loan debt for all.
  • Expansion of Medicaid as a short-term measure to cover healthcare for those who are impacted by the pandemic.
  • Federal funding for states to improve election administration and upgrade voting systems that comply with the CDC standard regarding COVID-19.

Meet A CASA Introduces Carla!

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Have you considered volunteering but weren’t sure how you would juggle it along with other obligations? This CASA volunteer has relied on the support of her program specialist to ensure she has a positive volunteer experience that doesn’t impact her ability to work full-time OR train for Hood to Coast Relays!

We’re excited for you to meet Carla!

Carla’s choice to become a CASA volunteer started with her desire to positively give back to her Southwest Washington community. She believes that the more you invest in a community the more it gives back and we couldn’t agree more.

This busy woman holds a full-time position outside of the YWCA so she acknowledges that time is always limited. Yet the flexibility of the staff and the volunteer opportunity itself allows her to feel successful in supporting the CASA program despite a varying work schedule. She also feels supported by the many opportunities for continued learning beyond the thorough on-boarding process. She shares that despite being limited by the hours she has available, “knowing that I’m helping these kids have a voice in a system where they can often feel voiceless means a lot to me.”

As a native Spanish speaker, Carla is also in a position to help families that may not speak English as a first language. This speaks to Carla’s commitment to not only advocate for the child but also being a part of strengthening the family’s ability to care for and protect their children. Given that June is Reunification Month we’re thrilled to see how Carla embodies the goal to reunite children with their family of origin. This is especially significant given that children in the Hispanic community are disproportionately represented in Clark County’s foster care system.

Carla acknowledges that, “being a CASA isn’t always easy, but it is definitely a rewarding role to be in.”

If you’re ready to find fulfillment as a CASA volunteer we invite you to join us Saturday June 27th at 6:00pm, for our next virtual Informational Session. You are also welcome to contact our Volunteer Specialist, Cheryl White, at cwhite@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

CASA Car Parade Reaches National Attention

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It All Started When…

Since April 10th Clark County CASA has been parading by foster homes.  Our goal?  To connect with the children we represent in court. COVID-19 and stay-home orders had prevented us from engaging in our typically monthly visits with these children. We knew that children were already experiencing such a trying time in being removed from their homes and now separated from their peers at school.  Both our staff and volunteers wanted to do something to ensure the kids knew we were there and cared. Inspired by news accounts of teachers driving by their student’s homes our Program Specialist, Laura suggested we create our own parade. Hence, the CASA Car Parade was born!

Then Things Took Off!

We’ve been on five parades all over Clark County and the momentum hasn’t stopped. In fact, it captured the attention of our local news outlets – KOIN 6, KPTV and FOX 12! After sending out local reporters to get a glimpse at what we initiated they elected to interview some of our staff and volunteers. One volunteer summed it up perfectly saying, “It gives them something to break up their day and feel a little special; here’s a parade just for them. It’s a brief light in the day. A good morale booster for the kids, the families, and for us.” We were then excited to see it featured on the National circuit at MSNBC!

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

From there we captured the attention of our National CASA organization and were featured as a Network Spotlight. With over 950 CASA programs they were inspired by the creative way our local program had been connecting with kids. Of course we were excited by the opportunity to reach a larger audience.  The extended reach brings awareness to our mission to provide quality advocacy in the best interest of each child. Yet the biggest triumph in all of this is not the recognition but the smiles we see on the kids’ faces.  Everyone feels the happiness as we honk, cheer and wave going by.  In a time that can feel overwhelmingly dark, we are proud to share some light.

Meet A CASA Introduces Mechele!

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Have you ever wondered who becomes a CASA Volunteer? Let us introduce you to this hard-working, marathon running woman who is out to be a positive force in our community.

Say hello to Mechele Knable.

When asked to tell us more about how she decided to become a CASA volunteer the first sentence she responded with was, “I have been a CASA for a little over a year, and it has become one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.” Wow!

After feeling bogged down by the negativity she was seeing on social media and on the news she knew that it was time to look for a volunteer opportunity that would enable her to represent a positive force.  Her search led her to the YWCA Clark County’s request for CASA volunteers. That was two years ago and she hasn’t looked back. She details how after going through the interview process she knew she had made the right choice because the organization was supportive, inclusive and overall positive – so much so that she described it as, “a place she belongs.” Although the process can feel intimidating the support she receives from her CASA Program Specialist has allowed her the chance to make a difference in a child’s life that really needs her to be there.

Mechele explains, “When I  walk through the door and get that big hug from the child I am advocating for, and I stand in front of the commissioner and tell them what my recommendation is for that child, I realize I am making that positive difference in the world that I was hoping for when I decided I wanted to do volunteer work.”

If this inspires you to take action we invite you to join us Monday, June 1st, at 6 PM, for our next virtual Informational Session. You are also welcome to contact our Volunteer Specialist, Cheryl White, at cwhite@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

Keeping #EyesOnKids During COVID-19

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In this time of social distancing, we must all work to remain socially close to children. Child abuse and neglect is likely on the rise in the face of this pandemic, as families are put under more financial and emotional stress, but reporting may be down. Children are no longer in the public eye—they are not at schools or daycare, or in other locations where caring adults would be able to spot signs of abuse.

One group of people who speak up for children is CASA volunteers. They work with children in the child welfare system who have experienced abuse or neglect. They meet with children in person at least monthly, advocate for children’s best interests and provide information to judges that helps them make the most well-informed decisions for each child.

These in-person visits provide an opportunity for CASA volunteers to ensure the child is safe and well-cared for. But right now, meeting in person with the children they advocate for is difficult or impossible. This means it is harder for them to gauge what is going on in children’s lives, and their needs.

Staff and volunteers at Clark County CASA are finding creative ways to continue to meet with children. We’re continuing to connect with our kids with weekly car parades. Our staff and volunteers have come together to decorate their personal vehicles and drive by the children’s homes to bring a sense of joy during these bleak times. We’re also hosting visits virtually, utilizing Zoom and other meeting platforms to ensure we can engage with children.

This kind of creativity is what will make a real difference in children’s lives right now. It is the kind of creativity that people in all sectors of society are demonstrating.

If you are willing to get involved in a life-changing and sometimes life-saving  cause—the safety, health and well-being of a child—join us in speaking up for a child at this time of community crisis. When the world re-opens, the need will be greater than ever.

  • Those who want to change a child’s life as a CASA volunteer can use this time to learn more about the children we serve and to take advantage of our virtual information sessions that are being held five times this month. You can find the dates and registration information by visiting our website at: https://casaclarkcounty.org/casa-information-sessions-2/.
  • It’s up to all of us to make sure children are safe. Here are some resources to learn more or report suspected abuse or neglect:
    • If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, contact the police or 9-1-1.
    • To report suspected abuse or neglect, contact 1-866-END-HARM (1-866-363-4276). You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline via text, phone or online chat, to report abuse or if you are afraid you might hurt someone – https://www.childhelp.org/childhelp-hotline/.
    • For information on preventing abuse, visit the website of Child Abuse America at https://preventchildabuse.org/.
    • For information on the CASA/GAL program and on the effects of child abuse or neglect, visit the National CASA/GAL Association for Children’s website at https://nationalcasagal.org/.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver who needs support, contact the National Parent Hotline at 1‑855‑427‑2736 or go to https://www.nationalparenthelpline.org/what-we-do
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We want to thank Fairway Coffee for hosting our 2nd Coffee with CASA event this past Saturday!  Owner and Managing Member Amy Bernash and her team at Fairway opened their doors and provided a large space for us to share more about CASA and our volunteer opportunities.  We felt very encouraged by the response from the community and her patrons and are in the process of welcoming some new volunteers to participate in our winter training cycle who attended the event!

If you were unable to make it to our event this past weekend but are interested in learning more about how you can become a volunteer over coffee please join us Saturday, February 1st at 10:45a.m. at Latte Da Coffee House and Wine Bar at 205 E 39th St. Vancouver, WA 98663 in their Garden Room.  Owner, Scott Flury  and his team have created a cozy environment that frequently holds neighborhood events and fundraisers for local non-profits including CASA!  We’ll have a carafe of coffee to share with those who approach us and want to learn more about our program and how to get involved as a volunteer.  We’re looking forward to reaching more of Clark County and expanding our presence and ability to further impact foster youth.

CASA Information Sessions

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Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is hosting multiple 1-hour informational sessions for interested volunteers or community members who want to learn more about the program.

  • Thursday, Feb. 13 at Noon
  • Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6:00pm
  • Monday, March 2 at Noon
  • Tuesday, March 10 at 6:00pm

CASA volunteers advocate for the best interest of children who have come into the state’s care as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. All are welcome to join us in the Community Room at YWCA, 3609 Main Street, Vancouver. You may also visits us at https://www.facebook.com/casaclarkcounty/ or email our Volunteer Specialist at kbenzel@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

The program’s vision is that volunteers from the community engage in the process to provide a unique perspective to the court about the child’s immediate needs and long-term permanency. Clark County CASA is a program of YWCA Clark County.

Upcoming CASA Information Sessions

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Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is hosting multiple 1-hour informational sessions for interested volunteers or community members who want to learn more about the program.

Monday January 6th at 12:00 noon

Monday January 6th at 6:00p.m.

Thursday February 13th at 12:00 noon

Tuesday February 18th at 6:00p.m.

CASA volunteers advocate for the best interest of children who have come into the state’s care as a result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. All are welcome to join us in the Community Room at YWCA, 3609 Main Street, Vancouver. You may also visits us at https://www.facebook.com/events/527307104765411/ or email our Volunteer Specialist at kbenzel@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

The program’s vision is that volunteers from the community engage in the process to provide a unique perspective to the court about the child’s immediate needs and long-term permanency. Clark County CASA is a program of YWCA Clark County.

Coffee with CASA

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This past weekend we held our first Coffee with CASA event at Paper Tiger Coffee Roasters!  Owners Kenny and Sue Fletcher opened their place of business to allow CASA to host a table and share more about our program and volunteer opportunities with their incoming patrons.  In addition to providing a welcoming space they also offered a drink special for those that showed an interest in becoming a CASA and took the opportunity to learn more about how they could impact a child’s life as a volunteer.  We are grateful for the opportunity to engage with our local community and thankful for Paper Tiger staff for supporting our mission to bring awareness to CASA.

If you were unable to make it to our event this past weekend but are interested in learning more about how you can become a volunteer over coffee please join us Saturday, January 4th at 9:00a.m. at Fairway Coffee at 11504 NE 119th St, Vancouver, WA 98662.  Amy Bernash, Owner and Managing Member and her team will host CASA and will also provide an incentive for patrons to engage with our CASA team over coffee.  We’re looking forward to reaching more of Clark County and expanding our presence and ability to further impact foster youth.