Making a Difference: CASA works to Protect Our Most Vulnerable Children

July 3, 2019

The boy, tiny for his seven years, sat quietly in the room with the adults. They were there to tell him he’d be moving — again — to yet another foster home. A new family, new neighborhood, new school, new everything.

Everything except for his friend, Judy Walter. A volunteer with Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Judy had been with the child through every move during the past three years. The boy’s brown eyes rested on Walter, seeking reassurance.

“Don’t you worry,” she said. “Miss Judy’s going to be there with you. Isn’t she always?”

The brown eyes lit up. “Yes!” he said.

“He’s tearing at my heartstrings,” Walter said later. “We’re having a tough time finding a final foster home that’s right for him, so he can be adopted. I have been the only constant in his life during this period. And I’ll be there for him until he finds the right home.”


Volunteer Spotlight & Partnership with Alaska Airlines

May 24, 2019

Emily Edwards (pictured left) and Julie Haro (pictured right) are Clark County CASA Volunteers but they have something else in common—they both work for Alaska Airlines. Emily and Julie found their way to the CASA program from different paths but they both bring a level of compassion and dedication that comes from the heart.

Making a Difference

Emily joined our program in 2016 and she says “My inspiration is the lasting change and positive impact that comes from my participation with CASA and being involved in a more in-depth way with the families and lives that make up Clark County. I feel most accomplished knowing that I played a role in the kids returning to a safe and happy home where they feel loved and wanted. Spending time with a child to learn about them so I can be their voice is one of the most rewarding things about being a CASA. Providing consistency and loyalty to stay with them throughout the case is one of my greatest contributions. The CASA Program is a great place to volunteer for a person who really wants to help the community but most of all to help a child’s voice be heard.”

Julie joined our program just recently in March 2019 and she saysBefore I became a foster parent in 2010, I had never even heard of the CASA program. After our first placement in 2011, I met the CASA volunteer and was so touched that this woman volunteered her time for vulnerable children in our community. I then realized just how important the CASA program is for the well-being and justice of foster children. I knew that after I moved on from fostering children, my next journey would be with CASA. I feel honored to be a part of such a critical and wonderful program. Volunteering opens your eyes, your heart. If you’re looking for a way to enrich your life, join CASA.”

Getting Involved

In order to encourage staff to volunteer in areas they are passionate about, Alaska Airlines provides support for some of the time employees spend volunteering. We are so grateful that Emily and Julie have chosen to volunteer for CASA and that Alaska Airlines is behind them all the way.

You too can volunteer with CASA. Join us at any of the upcoming one-hour long CASA of Clark County Information Nights:

  • Monday, July 8th at 6:00pm
  • Wednesday, July 17th at12:00pm
  • Tuesday, August 13th at 6:00pm
  • Wednesday, August 21st at 12:00pm

Thank you Emily, Julie, and our wonderful community partner, Alaska Airlines!

CASA Information Sessions

April 11, 2019

Upcoming Dates:

  • Monday, July 8th @6:00pm
  • Wednesday, July 17th @ 12:00pm
  • Tuesday, August 13th @ 6:00pm
  • Wednesday, August 21st @ 12:00pm

Clark County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) is hosting a 1-hour informational session for interested volunteers or community members who want to learn more about the program. 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 email our Volunteer Specialist at


CASA Volunteer Spotlight

April 3, 2019

Ruth Hoard has been a CASA volunteer for two years, and currently serves as the volunteer advocate for 6 children. We are so proud of the work Ruth does to support children in our community.  Read on to hear about Ruth’s experience with the CASA program.

When I was working full-time in the Early Childhood field, I was interested in becoming a CASA but due to time constraints could not do the training or devote enough hours to volunteer. I retired in 2013 and soon discovered I missed working with children and families. I saw the CASA information in the newspaper and filled out an application, was interviewed and selected, completed training and have been a CASA for two years. More

“CASA Crew” Gives Back During NAMI Walk

June 11, 2018

by Emily Ostrowski

At YWCA Clark County we are proud to have staff and volunteers who seek to get involved in our community, both at work and in their spare time. On May 20th several CASA staff members gave back by participating in the NAMIWalks Northwest 5k Event in Portland.

For those who aren’t familiar, NAMI stands for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Established in 1979, NAMI, according to their website, “is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.” Each year they hosts walks to raise awareness and funds for NAMI branches across the country.

Kelli Burgad, Program Specialist for Clark County CASA organized the walk, initially as a team-building activity for CASA staff. The “CASA Crew”, as they called themselves, consisted of 18 participants, six of which were CASA staff. Several others donated to the team, and in total they raised $2,150!

Burgad recognizes the wide array of people affected by mental illness, and was motivated to participate in the walk and support NAMI specifically because they offer free services that can be of help to low income families who are suffering. She also sees the ways in which mental health, as well as lack of access to mental health services, affects the children and families she sees at Clark County CASA.

“Mental illness is a significant part of the work we do with CASA,” said Burgad. “Kids we work with often experience mental illness brought on by trauma, genetics, and life experiences. We also see parents who suffer with mental illness that has brought them to a place of legal trouble due to neglecting, abusing, or abandoning their children.”

In addition to financial burdens, Burgad also sees the continuing stigma around mental illness as a big hurdle towards people seeking help. From CASA Crew’s official NAMIWalks Team Page she writes:

Mental Health issues have been a taboo in past history, but times are slowly changing as we become more educated through science and medicine that mental health is a sickness and treatable just like being diabetic. Individuals don’t have to suffer alone, but there continues to be a great need for understanding and acceptance of mental illness in our communities.

She also appreciates the connection between the missions of NAMI and YWCA Clark County. “Both are very similar in their commitment to a better community and helping others in need that suffer from stigma and discrimination,” said Burgad. “They each provide education to the community to eliminate discrimination and advocate for change.”

Though this was her first year participating, Burgad fully plans to organize another walk next year for anyone in the community who wants to join. She’s already got a name picked out:
“Team HOPE”

Click here to see more pictures from the walk.

Guest Essay by Dennis Kampe: “Volunteerism”

May 9, 2018

In appreciation of our CASA volunteers, we’d like to share this brief essay by CASA volunteer Dennis Kampe. Read below as Dennis reflects on some of his own childhood experiences and how they prepared him for a life of service towards young people. We at YWCA Clark County are so grateful for volunteers like Dennis, whose passion and dedication inspire us and help us live out our mission each and every day!

I was raised on a 25-acre farm in Ridgefield. I struggled in my early years in school, eventually failing the 4th grade. My older sister and brother were out of the house by the time I was in the 7th grade. My mother died when I was 15, and my dad drank excessively. By age 13 I was on my own and responsible for all aspects of the family farm and my life. My high school years were the most difficult and painful years in my life. More

CASA Profile Part Three: Gail Shelton

November 16, 2017

In honor of YWCA Clark County celebrating 35 years of our CASA Program we’ve interviewed three of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers on what it’s like being a CASA. Our final interview with Gail Shelton is below. (Follow the links to read our interviews with Avonna Chung and Larry Didier as well!)

Gail Shelton

How long have you been a CASA?
10 years.

What first inspired you or got you interested in the CASA program?
During my last few years of teaching reading in the Evergreen School District I was thinking about volunteering in some capacity in the schools, possibly as a “Big Sister” or “Lunch Buddy”. I was drawn to an ad in the paper that kept reappearing every so often, describing the CASA Program. I thought, “I could do that!” I had had several students who were in temporary foster homes over the years, and my own two sons were adopted, so I was somewhat familiar with children who didn’t have permanent, stable homes. More

Volunteer Judy Walter Awarded WA State CASA of the Year

October 26, 2017

by Emily Ostrowski

Volunteers are the lifeblood of YWCA Clark County. We could never provide the resources for our community that we do without their selfless work and dedication, and we love to take any opportunity to celebrate their achievements. That is why it fills us with great pride to announce that this year’s recipient of the Washington State CASA of the Year is our very own Judy Walter!

Judy has served as a CASA since February of 2014. She had always prioritized volunteer work, and decided to sign up after she was encouraged to join the program by a friend who was also a CASA, and knew of Judy’s love of children.

Judy, who spent 30 years working in the insurance industry before retiring 13 years ago, has made a it a priority to stay involved in her community, both as a CASA, as well as volunteering at her granddaughter’s elementary school every week.

Judy’s love of children is at the heart of her commitment to being an exceptional CASA, and something she says is essential for anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer. She also emphasizes the need to stay objective and clear-headed. “It’s a commitment, so you have to make sure you are willing to put in the time to do the best job you can for the children you are serving. Be prepared to become emotionally involved with the children you are advocating for, but be prepared to let go when the time comes.” More

CASA Profile: Avonna Chung

August 29, 2017

by Emily Ostrowski

YWCA Clark County would be nothing without our volunteers. We feel an enormous sense of pride and gratitude for all of our program volunteers that give their time, energy and compassion so selflessly to help aid many of the most vulnerable members of our community.

This year our Clark County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary, and as a way to commemorate the program’s longevity we’d like to take some time to shine the spotlight on several volunteers who advocate for children in our community, and celebrate the work that they have done.

CASA Volunteer Avonna Chung


Celebrating 35 Years of Putting Children First with CASA

August 17, 2017

by Emily Ostrowski

This year our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary. We are incredibly proud of all the work our volunteers have done for children in the community through this program. In honor of this, we’d like to take some time to look back at the very beginnings of the CASA Program, and why it remains a vital resource to advocate for children.

The National CASA Program was started by King County Superior Court Judge David Soukup in 1977. During his time on the bench in juvenile court, Judge Soukup became frustrated that during cases there was no one in the courtroom whose sole job was to provide a voice for children, and from his concerns the idea for CASA grew. “It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives,” said Soukup.