When addiction separated Stephani from her boy, Mason, Court Appointed Special Advocates helped bring them together again.
Mother and son were back together following her graduation from her recovery program with Family Treatment Court. All went smoothly for more than two years. Then COVID struck. And although neither mother nor son contracted COVID, the virus essentially tore them apart again.
“COVID was tough on us,” she says. “We were essentially isolated. I was getting unemployment, but because I was waitressing, I was only being paid half of what I made at work. The stress just built up, and last October, I relapsed.”
But her supports were in place this time. “I knew I could get clean and, with help, get him back,” she says. “I wasn’t so terrified the second time.”
Mason went back to his original foster “mom,” a compassionate woman who wanted to see mother and son reunited. A new CASA, Laura Bullock, was appointed to advocate for Mason. She too was taken by the mother/son bond.
“She is a person who struggled with addiction. But above all, she is a mom,” Bullock says. “She was like most people we know. Her life was fine, then she fell, and the state caught her and cared for her till she got it all back together again. It was her determination, plus her supportive foster mom, plus her support from CASA and family treatment court that reunited them.”
Stephani Kuykendall is a person who will always struggle with addiction Although she is in recovery, the addiction will always be there. But that’s not the whole story. The truth about her is that she is a mother who loves her son. And because she lives in a community where people saw that about her, she and Mason are together today.
DO YOU WANT TO ADVOCATE FOR A CHILD AS A CASA?
For community members ready to learn more about our volunteer opportunities we invite you to register for an information session or contact our Outreach Coordinator, Gwen Anderson at email@example.com.
June is National Reunification Month and a time to reflect on family strengths that lead to successful reunifications.
Here at Clark County CASA we have close to 130 volunteers that are involved in reunifying children with their families every day. According to the Children’s Bureau with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the majority of children exiting foster care are reunited with their families. These families are an inspiration because they have overcome difficulties and are equipped with tools to address future changes.
We know children do best when they can safely remain with their parents or with other family members. That’s why Clark County CASA volunteers commit to strengthening families in their ability to care for and protect their children. According to the National CASA/GAL Association for Children 2019 Annual Local Program Survey Report, 41 percent of the cases closed resulted in children returning to their parent(s) or primary caretakers, including 5,000 children reported as remaining with parents or caregivers throughout the case.
One of our guiding principles that recognizes the importance of family preservation and/or reunification states:
- It is in a child’s best interest to remain with their family of origin whenever safely possible;
- The program acknowledges that children experience trauma when separated from their family of origin; and
- If a child is removed from their family of origin, it is in the child’s best interest to be reunified with their family of origin as soon as safely possible.
For more information about how CASA volunteers advocate for children’s best interests to achieve permanency register for one of our upcoming information sessions.
For nearly 40 years, YWCA Clark County has administered the Clark County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in partnership with Clark County Superior Court Administration. Serving over 700 children each year with the support of 130 volunteers and 11 staff, together we have advocated for the best interest of children in the care of the state due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
In recent years, YWCA has supported the CASA program by elevating its own new branding. Additionally, the program’s strong relationship with the National CASA Association has included grant funds to support volunteer recruitment. This combined effort led to the recruitment of many new volunteers in the last year, which greatly enhanced our ability to serve children in need. Thanks to these measures, the CASA program is much stronger today.
After serious consideration, and given the strength of the CASA Program, the YWCA Board of Directors has decided to not continue the administration of the CASA program after the expiration of the contract on December 31, 2021. YWCA is refocusing their resources to better serve their mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
“The CASA program has not only endured but thrived and grown under our organization’s careful and caring stewardship,” says Holly Jacobs, board president of YWCA Clark County. “CASA staff and volunteers continue to positively impact the lives of children in our community every day. The value of their ongoing child-focused work cannot be overstated. As a board, we are committed to a smooth and productive transition that effectively serves current and future CASA participants.”
Sheryl Thierry, director of the CASA Program, says the collaboration between CASA and YWCA Clark County has been instrumental in building the strong program we are today. “The CASA Program appreciates the long-standing support we have received from YWCA for nearly 40 years, and we look forward to the opportunities ahead.”
“CASA is an integral part of our dependency court system” says Judge Derek J. Vanderwood, Presiding Judge Clark County Superior Court. “It’s selfless volunteers build relationships with the children and families they serve, and provide the Court with invaluable information about how best to move a case forward. Superior Court looks forward to working with CASA to ensure the continuation of this program long into the future.
The CASA program will continue to focus on advocating for the children and supporting our volunteers.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.