Alaska CASA State Director
Moving on sounds so much better instead of saying someone is quitting or terminating,
Am I disappointed that two wonderful program
coordinators, Thia Peters and Jessica Clark are leaving their positions with the CASA program ?
Yes, I am but I am also thrilled
for both of them because of the reasons they
are leaving CASA.
Thia is going to be staying home with her beautiful new baby girl. What better reason could there to
Jessica has taken a position with the court system as the coordinator of the Palmer Infant and Toddler Court. This is great opportunity for Jessica and I am very excited for her. Another great reason to
Don't get me wrong, Thia and Jessica will be greatly missed but I am also very happy for them both.
Save the date for the 2017 Alaska CASA
Friday, September 29th and
Saturday September 30th, 2017
at the BP Energy Center
Please let LeeAnn know if you are interested in
serving on the conference planning committee. FAC has funds to bring in CASAs from other regions. Let your program coordinator know if you are interested in coming. If you are an Anchorage CASA and would be willing to house an out-of-town CASA
please let LeeAnn know.
Spotlight's On Kristen Adriazola
I am a current student at the University of New England enrolled in the Mas
ters of Social Work program. One requirement in my program was to complet
e a field practi
cum over the course of 8 months totaling 560 hours. When
looking for an internship
knew I wanted something complex
and interesting where I would learn a lot about systems as well as the clients served in the systems. When I initially inquired about an internship at the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) I had a rudimentary knowledge of the child welfare and legal system. I have now been interning with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, under Sarah Hanson and Becky Griffin for about 8 months and I am proud to say I have learned a tremendous amount in that time.
I have had the opportunity to be exposed to various court cases, ICWA trainings, cultural competence trainings and much more. In addition to all the exposure I have received, the most impressive aspect of this practicu
m by far is the individuals whom are involved in the CASA program, both the employees and the volunteers. The commitment, ingenuity and compassion shown by the volunteers and staff is apparent in their interactions with their clients on a daily basis.
During one of the first opportunities I received to observe a court case, I witnessed a CASA vigorously advocate for a child to receive their eye glasses. The child had been waiting for an appointment for several months which was limiting his ability to see in class. I noticed such a seemingly small thing as an eye appointment had such a profound impact on a child's life and education. If it wasn't for the assigned CASAs commitment to the case the child may have waited several more months for his glasses. This example of commitment to youth is also replicated in the care that is put into the monthly and annual trainings for the CASA volunteers.
Like observing court cases, trainings are an integral part of understanding challenges in child welfare. I was able to experience the entirety of the 40+ hour CASA pre-service training. The CASA pre-service training gave me insight on the disproportionate number of Alaskan Native children in state custody, the importance of cultural competency principals, and a deep understanding of the need for children in state custody to have advoc
s. The ingenuity and thoughtfulness of the training kept all participants engaged and excited about learning how to better advocate for children. I felt I walked out of the training understanding how to advocate but also the importance of advocating and speaking up for children.
As my internship comes to a close I continue to reflect on the many principals and concepts learned in training and witnessed while in court and around OPA. Whether or not you are advocating for a child to have glasses or advocating for a child to go to camp, each is extremely important to the individual child. My experiences validate the need for more advocates that share compassion and empathy for children who are in need of aid. The lessons I have learned throughout my internship will not only aid me in my future social work career but will aid me in my personal life.
Fostering Futures Grant Ends
The Fostering Futures grant from the National CASA Association ended at the end of February. We trained nine
new volunteers to be mentors for older youth in custody.
Three from Juneau, five from Anchorage and one from the Valley.
We are currently working on matching the CASAs with youth. A big thank you
to Angel Wade-Gonzales from Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) who was one of the curriculum trainers.
CASA Around the State
Alaska Delegation attends National
CASA conference in Seattle
Friends of Alaska CASA graciously funded CASA employees from around the state to attend the National CASA conference in March 2017. The weather was not especially pleasant but the conference was great. A highlight was Sarah getting her picture taken with Judge David Soukup, the judge that started the CASA program forty years ago.
On Wednesday after the conference the CASA staff meet to discusses goals and dreams for our programs.
It was an inspiring afternoon and we all waked away with great visions for CASA in Alaska. A big thanks to FAC for funding this day for us as it does not happen often that we all are in a room together.
L to R: Jessica Clarkson,Valley Coordinator, Anne Udry, Fairbanks coordinator, LeeAnn Reicks, State Director, Erin Leaders, FAC board member, Kim Sweet, Kenaitze Tribal Judge, Sarah Hanson, Anchorage Coord
inator, Jodi Phelan
(FAC board member)
Julie Lageson Fairbanks CASA volunteer, Diana Horbochuk,
FAC board president and Carol Graham, Juneau Program Coordinator. Missing from picture, Gibby Hernandez, grants coordinator and Sinea Williams, YK Delta program coordinator.
On January 31, 2017, we graduated 14 new CASA Volunteers. Congratulations to the following: Amy Wellman,
Madison Pachoe and
Scott Graves. Shown below with Judge Miller who swore in the new volunteers.
As of March 3, 2017, Anchorage CASA volunteers are serving
139 children in the foster care system!
On February 15, 2017, Becky Griffin (and husband Gavin)
a baby boy. His name is Sam and he is beautiful.
They are both doing well.
On February 7
th, Anchorage held their 2
nd annual Book Fair. Eeris Welborn, a community volunteer, held a fundraiser, ordered hundreds of books and held a Book Fair for our CASA volunteers. Many CASA volunteers came to the fair and picked out books for their CASA youth. Thank you Eeris Welborn! We hope to have another fair in December.
On the evening of February 7
, Anchorage held a 2-hour ICWA training for our CASA Volunteers. We had 19 CASA volunteers in attendance!
On February 15th and 16th, Anchorage had 5 CASA volunteers complete the Fostering Futures training. Well done! Two of those trainees have already been assigned cases with teenagers.
March is a great time to be in Fairbanks as we celebrate the warmer temps and additional hours of sunshine. Spring is just around the corner!
Our OPA office has been running a bit shorthanded and the GALs are working harder than ever to keep up on their cases and cover for others on leave. When I began this work 8 years ago, the GALs carried about 90 cases each; today their caseloads are approaching 140. As you can imagine, it's not an ideal scenario. More than ever, our CASA volunteers are providing an invaluable connection and support to the foster youth in our community. I hear story after story of how their work benefits our youth and it's my absolute pleasure to be able to share a few examples with you.
Excellent and sustained advocacy led to the successful conclusion Diane and John Roe's case involving 7 youth. Diane and John spent a great deal of time getting to know these kids and recognized their connections to each other. They were instrumental in facilitating visitations between the youth (in 3 separate placements), allowing them to maintain and strengthen their bonds. They kept up on all the children's needs, especially mental health, and assisted in crafting a transition plan that addressed the best interest of all the kids. Thank you Diane and John for your dedication to these kids which led to the successful reunification of this family. Nice work!
Big thanks to Julie Lageson and Sarah Doetschman for offering their experiences and reflections on their CASA work by emailing to the Talk of Alaska radio broadcast about community involvement in foster care. Here is a
to the full 60 minute broadcast, including the reading of Julie and Sarah's emails (near the end)!
I was inspired and rejuvenated by the workshops I attended at the National CASA conference in Seattle. I especially enjoyed Andy Goodman, author of the book Storytelling as Best Practice, who explained why storytelling in the single most powerful communication took available to ambassadors of the CASA mission. (More on this later).
I am especially excited about the possibility of using video conferencing to train volunteers in outlying areas!!!
A partnership between the Kenaitze Tribe
and Office of Public Advocacy
Is it Spring yet?!
It has been a busy start to 2017 for the Kenai Peninsula CASA!
The Kenaitze CASA program is going through big changes with my decision to stay home with my new little one. I will stay connected to the program buy becoming a CASA volunteer myself.
We are also wrapping up a new volunteer training. We had a handful of people drop last minute due to scheduling conflicts so the class was small but there has been lots of interest thanks to the radio program featuring CASA that we are looking to do another training this fall.
We have been really thinking hard about how to bring more awareness to the community and planning for more fundraisers. It has been great having others input and ideas including participation in a couple of parades and family oriented events.
Since the last newsletter one of our volunteers, Eileen Bryson, has closed a tribal court case and has already agreed to take on another case. I just can't say enough about our wonderful volunteers down here on the Kenai Peninsula!
Our first little fundraiser of the year was a Valentine basket drawing: date night in, date night out, and family fun night. We had a couple of amazing donations, from Mykle's Resturant including a dinner for two and a cash donation from an anonymous person to assist in finishing touches on the baskets. This quick idea was able to generate $335.00 for the children here on the Peninsula. We are hoping for more next year since we will have more time to promote.
Spring training is almost wrapped up and we are looking at the calendar for a fall training! So keep a watchful eye, and if you or someone you know is interested in joining our amazing group please let us know at email@example.com.
Every child is a different kind of flower, and all together, make this world a beautiful garden! - unknown
This is my farewell...I have accepted a position as the project coordinator for the Palmer Infant and Toddler Court. This new therapeutic court focuses on connecting babies and their families with the support and services they need to promote healthy child development, while at the same time ensuring speedier exits from the child welfare system.
I believe strongly in the advocacy each and every CASA volunteer provides. There is enormous healing power in the relationship a CASA volunteer and their CASA youth; a single, consistent, caring adult is the first step toward building resiliency and overcoming adverse childhood experiences. I feel so fortunate to have been a small part of connecting caring adults to deserving children - thank you for allowing me to be a small part of the story!
The Valley CASA Program would like to extend a special kudos to the following volunteers -
I would like to both recognize and thank CASA
for all her outstanding work and dedication to her 3 kiddo CASA case. She has been amazing at juggling all the different and significant needs of the children and a stressed out relative placement. How she manages to spend time with each child on a regular basis, work with OCS to identify and obtain needed resources and service providers, navigate the child protection system, support and encourage the children's relative placement, tirelessly advocate, keep me in the loop, work her own full time job and mange her own family's needs is just exhausting for me to even think about. But she does just that and everyone benefits from her tremendous work and involvement! In the very neglectful, chaotic and uncertain world of these 3 children, Trudy has become their constant. She is there to listen to them, to make them laugh, to let them know what is happening, to talk with their teachers, counselors and doctors, to encourage and to comfort. I cannot thank her enough for being willing to take on this very challenging case and to make such a difference in three children's lives. Trudy's accomplishments and drive challenge me to be a better GAL!!! Thank you so very much Trudy!!
Cecily Skoog-Moore, GAL - Palmer
Tracy McCann has been working on a case with two school-age twin girls, who were removed from their mother and were placed with their older sister, who herself had been a foster children in her youth due to removal from the mother. The placement in this case really appreciated the support and guidance from Tracy, and the twins have benefitted enormously from having a stable adult in their lives. Tracy has been able to visit the twins consistently at school and at home, and she takes them to do activities. She has helped to build bridges between the mom and the placement (her older daughter). Tracy has been the most up-to-date and reliable source of information in this case, and has shown great concern when issues arose in the case. Because she was volunteering in this matter, Tracy was able to identify potential problems and we were able to address them before they grew to unmanageable proportions. Thank you so much, Tracy!
Brooke Alowa, GAL - Palmer
Alaska Fly Fishers has started a youth fly fishing memorial fund in Valley CASA Mike Malone name. This is a wonderful way to honor Mike's long legacy of working for Alaska's children and youth. Contributions can be sent directly to Alaska Fly Fisher's at Attn: Mike Malone's Memorial Fund, Alaska Fly Fishers, 200 W. 34th Ste. 1233, Anchorage, AK, 99503.
Yukon Kuskokwim Delta CASA
A partnership between Association of Village Council Presidents
and Office of Public
Recently CASA duties have been split between myself, Denise Newby and Monique Von Dall-Rieke.
The information meeting in Akiachak went well, although there weren't as many people as hoped. We are planning to go again and will give even more notice. One person was interested in more information and we will be corresponding by e-mail. We were also able to educate tribal council members regarding what CASA is and the benefits for children in their community. They were strongly on board and will be talking to residents in Akiachuk about the follow up meeting.
As a part of our regular quarterly update Friends of Alaska CASA is pleased to announce our recent acquisition of a state gaming permit. This will allow FAC to diversify its fundraising capabilities and increase our capabilities in achieving our mission during fiscally constrained times. As an additional part of this process FAC is now a membership organization and this will help deepen the ties between the communities of need, the community-at-large and FAC volunteers. If you are, like us, passionate about protecting vulnerable children
please become a member of FAC. Please complete the application at our website
Finally, FAC was pleased to help send state CASA employees,
board members and volunteers to the 2017 National CASA conference in Seattle.
Attendees heard from expert speakers, participated
in training and workshops and brought back information from colleagues around the country
to assist with their vital work!
News From the Office of Children's Services
What is the Independent Living Program?
Davidson, Independent Living Program Coordinator
In 1999, the federal government passed the Foster Care Independence Act, naming it the John H. Chafee Independence Program. This program is designed to specifically serve youth who are most likely to remain in foster care until they are 18; helping them to develop the necessary skills to be successful as an adult. While most youth benefit from learning these important life skills from their parents and close family members, many foster youth are not given these same opportunities. The Chafee Independence Program seeks to bridge that gap.
OCS has seven Regional Independent Living Specialists (RILS). RILS work with older foster youth to complete the Casey Life Skills Assessment, identifying a youth's knowledge of basic life skills and find areas of need. After identifying skill gaps, Independent Living Specialists work with youth individually to model skills, develop resumes, job search, and assist identifying post secondary education or vocational training options. RILS facilitate classes for youth on topics such as budgeting, sexual health and car insurance. RILS also support retreats throughout the year for youth on topics of career exploration and post secondary education.
RILS help youth transition plan, identifying social supports personal goals as they transition out on their own. Transition plans, along with the efforts to develop basic life skills, serve youth as they step out into the world on their own. The Independent Living Program continues to support youth out of custody until the age of 21, helping with housing issues, continued education, and other basic needs. All youth who are in OCS custody and in out of home placement on their 16
birthday are eligible for IL services. If you have a youth turning 16, or know a youth who has left foster care who needs assistance, please contact your Regional Independent Living Specialist.
Independent Living website: