16 Aug

Beating the Courtroom Jitters

“You mean I have to speak in court?” “How will I know what to say?” “What if I forget to say something I meant to?” For Court Appointed Special Advocates, attending hearings can be one of the most intimidating aspects of advocacy.  But with a little bit of preparation, you might find that hearings are a breeze.  Here are a handful of tips and tricks to navigating the courthouse, from the CASA office and a few local legal professionals. Prep Work Let’s face it—the courthouse...

report writing
09 Aug

A Report Writing Cheat Sheet

Spoiler alert–I can’t give you what you might want from a report writing cheat sheet, namely a function key on the top row of your keyboard that reads “write reports.”  But what I can give is the next best thing, some thoughts about the process of writing reports and some suggestions to make the process go more effectively for you.  Let me break things down. Process, Purpose and Audience On a recent weekend I decided to take my Jeep for a jaunt...

Drive for 25
28 Jun

Peer Coordinators: In Their Own Words

One of many things that makes the CASA program unique among volunteer organizations is the opportunity for leadership, through the ability to become a Peer Coordinator. Peer Coordinators, or PCs, are defined by the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association as “volunteers coordinating other volunteers.” Each Peer Coordinator’s role is to provide coaching to CASAs as they work together to ensure that children receive quality advocacy. In addition to providing better support for Advocates, Peer Coordinators allow the organization to serve more...

21 Jun

About Those First Visits with the Child…

As Court Appointed Special Advocates, we are appointed by a Judge to serve as the investigative arm of the court and we become the voice of the child.  One of the pledges we take at the onset of our case is to see the child a minimum of once per month.  This initial meeting may cause some anxiety on both sides.  The following are some tips and thoughts to assist in making this first impression a lasting one. First, it is...

Florida Project
11 Jun

2018 Academy Awards Touch CASA Sensitivties

Film Review: “The Florida Project” This special movie handles complex social and economic realities with balance and subtlety. It is summer vacation for kids who live in a cheap hotel a few miles from Disney World. There is irony in the disparity of those two worlds that eventually suggests escape. Moonie, the 6 year old main character, leads her friends on many adventures that on the surface appear like kids being kids, but from another perspective, are the result of challenged...

08 Jun

ACEs: A Research Overview

When I was a 25-year-old Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in a Ukrainian public school, I found myself stymied by one of my students.  I don’t recall his name—Andriy or Sergei or Valeriy—but I still recall the day that I finally noticed something was wrong.  The boy who I’ll call Andriy was in sixth grade.  I had taught him for the last half of fifth grade, as well, at which time he was a cheerful kid who paid attention and...

04 Jun

CASA Case Work: The Challenge of the Blind Spot

In an effort to help form good habits for navigating lane changes and turns, some drivers’ education programs use the SMOG acronym (signal, mirror, over-the-shoulder, go). Adapting the SMOG habit may be a helpful model as CASAs interact within the cultural environment of our children and those important to them. Just as in driving, we need to be sure to appreciate what might be in our blind spots. It starts with a “signal”. Our intention is to seek a safe and...

Self Care
23 May

Self Care

Self Care The work we do as CASA Advocates can take a toll on our emotional well-being. Working with families and kids who have experienced trauma can lead an Advocate to experiencing compassion fatigue. It is important to dedicate time to ourselves, and address our emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs. Here are some ideas for Self Care: Physical Self Care Drink plenty of water. Exercise. Stretch. Get a massage. Dance, swim, walk, run, or do some kind of fun physical activity. Get enough sleep. Take a bubble...

I am for the child with kids
01 May

10 Ways in Which I Am for the Child

In 2011, the National CASA Association launched the I am for the child campaign.  The campaign was designed as a catalyst to strengthen the CASA mission that every abused and neglected child have a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate by their side.  Therein lies my motivation as an advocate when the task seems daunting. 10 Ways in which I am for the child: I am the “one constant” in the child’s life, assisting with all transitions until the child achieves permanency. I fight diligently for the child’s right...

teen brain map
10 Apr

It Takes a Village: A Perspective from Dr. Mariela Herrera

Sadly, statistics confirm a psychiatric admission for a child in the foster care system is far from an unusual occurrence. Mariela Herrera, MD, Medical Director of Youth Inpatient Psychiatric Unit at Billings Clinic, is on the front lines. “A child’s relationship with a parent is crucial to his or her sense of self, trust, and safety. Initial separation from a caregiver can be extremely traumatic to a child, and each subsequent move adds another layer of trauma,” she indicates. “Mental health...