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.

Meet Our Everyday Hero, Cyd

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“My greatest joy is when the kids to whom I am assigned proudly call me “my CASA,” and the way their faces light up when I see them.  I know from experience how important that is.”

Cyd has been a volunteer advocate with our program for two years but her roots are deep within the foster community. As a former foster child herself, she knows firsthand the significance of the one-on-one attention a CASA advocate can provide. She explains that foster parents frequently have multiple children to look after and that it’s rare when a child in care receives focused attention. She values her time shared with the children she works with over every other aspect of the job saying, “nothing matters as much as the kids knowing that someone truly cares about only them.”

That’s not to mistake CASA as a mentor position – she breaks down the details of her work including helping to ensure they have regularly scheduled medical and dental appointments, connecting with their teachers and being sure that all resources are explored for extra-curricular activities. In summary, “to contribute to making their lives less chaotic.” In addition to the children she advocates for, Cyd has also invested time in supporting biological mothers trying to get their lives back on track with the goal of reunifying families. This compassionate woman chooses to go above and beyond taking on multiple cases in neighboring Cowlitz County and describes the role as, “the most meaningful work I have ever done in my entire career.”

“If you love kids, want to make a positive difference in the lives of kids that desperately need you, then please please please don’t hesitate to sign up.”

Cyd attributes her confidence as a CASA to the far superior training and administrative support from our local Clark County CASA program. In fact, when researching various programs she felt compelled to relocate to Vancouver to affiliate with our YWCA program. She adds a lack of experience shouldn’t deter anyone from considering the position as our training materials will teach you everything you need to know. Beyond training she’s found that the program is excellent at tailoring assignments to the availability of each CASA volunteer while acknowledging that our volunteer base comes from all walks of life – retirees, full time employees, and parents with children of all ages.

If this inspires you to take action we invite you to join us for a Virtual Information Session to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer. You are also welcome to contact our Volunteer Recruiter, Gwen Anderson at ganderson@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

Meet An Everyday Hero

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“If you want to make a difference and really feel like you are making a difference, CASA work might be just the thing for you.”- Kelly Crain

Meet an everyday superhero, Kelly.

Kelly has been advocating for foster youth with our program for just over a year; but when he originally sought out to give back to youth in care he thought he may take another path. Kelly shares that after beginning the process to become a foster parent he recognized it just wasn’t a good fit for him. “I knew I wanted to make a positive contribution to the experience of children in foster care,” and that drive led him to CASA.

Kelly holds a full-time job within the education field and yet still feels driven to change a child’s story in foster care. He explains that, “With the attention and support of a CASA, the children know (consciously or subconsciously) that they are important and what they say and feel matters,” and that is the most significant part of his role as an advocate. Seeing his contribution help not only the foster youth he’s working with but also the foster parents and biological parents as they work toward reunification is incredibly motivating.

Not that the work comes without hurdles. Yet when he does have questions or needs a sounding board he turns to the support of his CASA Program Specialist as someone who he describes as always having time for him.

If this inspires you to take action we invite you to join us Wednesday October 7th, at 6 PM, for our next virtual Informational Session. You are also welcome to contact our Volunteer Recruiter, Gwen Anderson at ganderson@ywcaclarkcounty.org.

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.