Happy Holidays from all of us at Alaska CASA !
Alaska CASA State Director
Working in the child protection field can be very emotionally draining work. It's not your typical nine to five job were you can flip a switch and turn off all your emotions and
flip them on again the next day. It may be a fleeting thought you have about a specific child when listening to the news or it may be a child you cannot get out of your mind because you are worried about them or it may be a difficult recommendation you have to make on the child's behalf.
Some people in this field are better than others about separating work time from personal time which can be very frustrating for the non-work people in your life. "I' don't want to go to you work event because all everyone ever talks about is work and I don't want to hear it right now and have anything to contribute." or "Are you checking your work e-mail again?"
The bad news is that you may never be able to let go of it. I have retired GAL friends and past CASAs that still dream about kids they worked with. The good news is that there are things you can do to help. Make an agreement at social functions to not talk about work. If you do talk about work, talk about the things that make you feel good about the work you do. Talk about kids or clients that made you laugh (like one of my teenagers that makes sure everyone knows the "her judge don't play") and think all the youth that you know you were a positive influence on.
So, CASA volunteers, GALs, Judges, AAGs, OCS personell, parent's attorneys, therapists, service providers, court clerks, support staff, parent advocates and anyone else I forgot, give yourself a break, you do amazing and worthwhile things for youth everyday!
Darlene has been a resident of Anchorage, AK for the last 5 ½ years. Prior to moving to Alaska she served both as active duty and then a civilian working in the Air Force for a combined 12 years. When her last assignment in England was ending, based on a friend's suggestion she decided to move to Alaska, "just for a couple years" and then move on. Trying Alaska out for 1-2 years effectively has turned into over 5 years for Darlene. Much like many people before Darlene, Alaska's beautiful scenery and abundant outdoor activities has held Darlene entranced.
After deciding to stay in Alaska, Darlene wanted to get more involved in giving back to her new community. A friend recommended volunteering at the Alaska Military Youth Academy (AMYA) on base. The Alaska Military Youth Academy's mission is "To help intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth". Contrary to belief AMYA is not a boot camp but a special purpose accredited school which combines' academics as well as physical and mental training. Darlene's educational background and experience in the Air Force made her uniquely qualified to act as a mentor for youth, where she volunteered in that capacity for approximately 1 ½ years.
Upon hearing about the mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) from a friend, Darlene thought it would be a worthwhile endeavor to transition to. Darlene describes working with youth as a genuinely enriching life experience for her. She hopes she enriches their lives but also receives so much back in return. To our benefit Darlene has been an excellent addition to the CASA program. Darlene has been with the program for 2 ½ years and has worked on 2 cases, the first with three children, and the second with a partner since there are eight children.
Darlene describes the CASA training as giving her the proper foundation for equipping her to be a CASA volunteer. Her advice to new CASA volunteers would be that, "at first the training is a little overwhelming" in the sense that you have so much responsibility, but at the end you are "more capable than you may think you are". Darlene credits much of her advocacy efforts to her Guardian Ad Litems for their continued mentorship and guidance. As she continues on the journey as a CASA she hopes to continue growing and learning from the first Tuesday trainings.
We certainly hope Alaska's rapture doesn't let go of Darlene anytime soon as she not only enriches the lives of youth but also the CASA program. Thanks for all your efforts Darlene!
Article written by OPA intern,
Welcome Angel Gonzales
My name is, Angel Gonzales, and I am with the Fostering Futures Initiative. I am 28 years old, have been a member of Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) for the past 11 years and a part of the Fostering Futures team for the past couple of years. I am thrilled
to have rejoined with our new grant! My experience in foster care has given me a drive and pa
ssion to help those who are still in foster care. Through the Fostering Futures Initiative, I can do just that by helping to recruit Volunteer Mentors for our older, at risk youth in care. Everyone needs at least one person to depend on, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to share those special moments of laughter, successes and even failures with. I love the fact that this initiative is helping to make that one permanent connection happen. With that being said I am excited and ready to make these connections happen, to see everyone's faces again, and to work with new volunteers!
Angel's Perspective On Fostering Futures
was always so zealous and honorable in fulfilling his compact with me, that he made me zealous and honorable in fulfilling mine with him. If he had shown difference as a master, I have no doubt I should have returned the compliment as a pupil. He gave me no such excuse, and each of us did the other justice," (Charles Dickens, Great Expectations). Many of our foster youth have not had a positive role model in their life. They have not been lead by a positive example as Charles Dickens quoted so eloquently. All youth and children need at least one person in their lives to show them that they can live a fulfilling life. They have a choice in how to lead their lives. They can be better and do greater than those before them. However, they need inspiration and guidance on how to do this - especially our older, at-risk youth in foster care.
That is why the Fostering Futures Initiative was created: so that our at-risk youth can have a positive influence in their life, who volunteers their time. It was created to provide at least one person to be zealous and honorable in fulfilling their compact with them. To show them that they are important and encourage them to not make excuses. Our youth need to be inspired and motivated just as Mr. Dickens was by his mentor. It only takes one person to make a change, not only in the lives of another person, but to make a change in our community, nation, and even the world.
During the time I have worked as a Fostering Futures Trainer, I have enjoyed coming to work, knowing that my part as a trainer is one of the initial steps to permanently changing a young person's life. The simple fact that our CASA's
their time, allows our youth to experience something they may not have experienced before. The wall that is built up around their heart begins to come down, because they see that this person is not there because of a paycheck, but because they truly want to be there. Not only are they able to open up to their volunteer mentor, but they truly feel cared for. By no means am I claiming that paid workers don't care, because I know there are many who do - but that our youth often feel as though they are in it just for the money
becoming a crucial part of the Fostering Futures Initiative, I know that together
impact the lives of our at-risk youth, and by doing so, can change the course of their lives.After all, had it not been for someone who cared in our lives, had someone not taken us under their wing, had someone not influenced us in some way, shape, or form... where would we be?
Angel be co -training with LeeAnn and Gibby. Angel's mother, Michelle Adams, was a long time CASA and Volunteer Guardian ad litem and is now living in Texas.
The FF training date is:
Saturday, January 21, 2017 from 9:00 - 5:00 in
will immediately follow Juneau's core training.
The Anchorage training will be February 15th and 16th from 5:00 - 9:00.
20th Annual Quilt Auction is a
By Debby Hudson, Quilt Auction Coordinator
Friends of Alaska CASA's 20
Annual Silent Quilt Auction was held on, November 26, 2016 at the University Center Mall
in Anchorage. There was a record number 223 uniquely stunning quilts donated by generous quilters and over $32,000 was raised from auctioning quilts, raffle quilt ticket sales, and cash donations.
, a group that has performed at every one of our 20 quilt auctions, entertained the crowd as they munched on dozens and dozens of scrumptious molasses, chocolate chip and snickerdoodle cookies made and donated by
This year's quilt auction was dedicated to
, a tireless advocate for abused and neglected children throughout Alaska for nearly 25 years, serving as a volunteer CASA, a Guardian ad litem, and also as the statewide Director of the Alaska CASA Program.
, a 10-year ovarian cancer survivor, retired in July and moved to her childhood home of Solvang, California. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with Stage 4a Diffuse Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment and, along with thanking her for her many years of service to all things CASA in Alaska, we wish her a speedy recovery.
of Anchorage won the extraordinary raffle quilt, Kaleidoscope Dreams, which was made by
and machine quilted by
as well as donated by both!
is a long-time FAC supporter, having donated 25 quilts to our annual auctions since 1999, and very a v
ery deserving winner-Congratulations, Mary!
Friends of Alaska CASA will have additional information about the quilt auction on its website www.friendsofalaskacasa.org by mid-December.
CASA Around the State
BIA Leadership Conference
LeeAnn, Patty Burley and Diane Horbochuk, Friends of Alaska (FAC) board members presented at the BIA conference on November 29, 2016. LeeAnn talked about the huge need for Alaska Native CASA volunteers and foster homes. Patty talked about the importance of Alaska Native children to have Alaskan Native volunteers advocating for them. Panu Lucier who has been a CASA volunteer since 1999 and is Iñupiaq from Wales talked about her experiences as a CASA volunteer and the reactions from the children when they saw their CASA looked like them. We encouraged partnerships between tribes or tribal consortium with the Office of Public Advocacy to increase the number of CASA volunteers in rural communities thereby improving outcomes for children in these areas. Tribal Judge Kim Sweet also presented on the success of the current partnership between Kenaitze and OPA. Diane addressed FAC's efforts in supporting CASA in Alaska.
CASA Staff attending National CASA conference in Seattle
Friends of Alaska CASA is graciously funding CASA employees from around the state to attend the National CASA conference in March 2017. LeeAnn, Sarah, Jessica, Anne, Carol, and Thia will be attending the conference, Denise Nerby will also be attending funded by AVCP. We are also planning an Alaska CASA retreat day while we have everyone together to discuss how we want our program to develop in the future.
Over the past year, the Anchorage CASA program has provided volunteer advocacy to about 220 children in state custody. The next class of Anchorage CASA volunteer candidates will begin pre-service training in January. We are very excited to add to our family of dedicated and enthusiastic advocates!!
Continuing Education and Community Engagement
Our First Tuesdays are a great avenue for hosting training and providing volunteers with an opportunity to learn, review cases and network with one another. Thanks to the following presenters for contributing their time and expertise to help strengthen our program: Nicole Stanish, Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC); Allen Blair, licensed psychologist and professional counselor; Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, Alaska Cares Medical Director; Barb Malchick, Volunteer GAL and Court Improvement Project (CIP) Facilitator. The next First Tuesdays trainings will be presented by Victoria Kendall from Programs for Infants and Children (PIC) in February and Brenda Ursel from Alaska Center for Resource Families (AWRC) in March.
Friends of Alaska CASA (FAC) has continued to provide our program with fantastic support. Thank you FAC for providing funding to help with training costs, for helping us to provide our volunteers with tokens of appreciation, for enabling us to fund volunteer activities with their CASA youths and for making it possible for program staff and volunteers to attend the annual National CASA conferences !!!
Winter greetings from Fairbanks!
Last month, three new volunteers were sworn in at an especially sweet ceremony. After welcoming and thanking the volunteers, the six judges in attendance spoke about the value of having a CASA volunteer assigned to a case- from the court's perspective AND they youth's perspective. No doubt they are so supportive of our program because they have watched our CASA volunteers over many years and appreciate the fresh perspective we offer and the connection we have with our youth.
Way to go, Fairbanks volunteers!
We are currently working on our annual Stocking Project, an effort to provide a little holiday cheer for teen foster youth, who are often overlooked at the holidays. Each teen connected with the with the OCS Independent Living Program (over 50 youth in Fairbanks) will receive a hand decorated holiday stocking stuffed with items generously donated by our community. These include gift cards, books, small games, toiletries, etc. This has proved to be a great way for the larger community to support our youth as well as a way to spread holiday cheer.
Our next training will begin in March, so if you know anyone who would make a great youth advocate, please have them
Many thank yous to the volunteers who stepped up to staff the Alaska CASA table at Alaska Federation of Natives in October- Artha DeRuyther, Julie Lageson, John & Dianne Roe, Barbara Braley, Sarah Doetschman, and Mary Bruso. These program ambassadors got the word out about CASA, recruited potential Fairbanks volunteers, and sold over $650 in quilt raffle tickets! LeeAnn Reicks, Alaska CASA State Director was "thoroughly impressed with they way they engaged and conveyed the program to visitors". Nice job!
THANK YOU to
Beth Ross who continues to work towards a permanent living situation for her older youth. Beth has been a constant presence in his life over the last 2 years and is not afraid to ask the hard questions to insure he is in the least restrictive yet supportive living and working environment.
Last but not least, a big thank you to
Italia Carson for donating to the FAC Quilt Auction. Italia, a new volunteer, donated two unique and beautiful quilts- one she purchased in Afghanistan and another was made by a friend, and member of the Sioux tribe. Thanks, Italia for initiating Fairbanks' contribution to the annual quilt auction!
Our volunteers contribute to this program in many different ways- all of which are valuable and create a strong, vibrate program.
All the best,
uneau has a core training scheduled for January 2017 and immediately after a Fostering Futures training. LeeAnn will be flying down to help a very overwhelmed Carol who is a FT GAL and Juneau CASA Program Coordiantor. Angel will be in Juneau for the FF training which is Saturday, January 21, 2017 from 9:00 - 5:00.
CASA Core Training
Thursday, January 12th from 5:00 - 9:00
Friday January 13th from 5:00-9:00
January 14th from 9:00 - 5:00
hursday, January 19th from 5:00 - 9:00
Friday January 20,
from 5:00 - 9:00
Foster Futures Training
Saturday, Januray 21, 2017 from 9:00 - 5:00
In order to take FF training applicants have had to already gone through CASA core training.
A partnership between the Kenaitze Tribe
and Office of Public Advocacy
With Thia out on maternity leave, I have been SUPER busy!
I have been working hard at recruiting new volunteers for our core training which has been rescheduled to
Currently, I have three individuals interested in training and will be conducting interviews soon. I currently have seven more information meetings for the month of December!!! I will be scheduling January's information meetings within the next few weeks. In addition to recruiting, I am working on preparing the CASA kids Christmas party which is planned for December 17th.We will be be decorating cookies and Christmas cards,
making our own Christmas ornaments, and enjoying sleigh rides, hot cocoa, and pictures with Santa!
I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Congratulations to Kenai CASA Program Coordinator, Thia Peters, and her husband on the birth of their beautiful little girl, Jordyn Christine Bailey! Jordyn made her entrance to the world at 8:50 AM on Wednesday, October 26th 2016 weighing a whopping 9 pounds and 14 ounces. Mom and baby are finally home and doing well!
As the year ends, we have an opportunity to reflect back on the amazing work the Valley program has accomplished.
We held three volunteer trainings over the year and swore-in more volunteers than any previous year! In November we held the last training course of the year and officially welcomed four new members into the program. Judge Vanessa White presided over the swearing-in ceremony for Jamie Rizzo, Ginny Jackson, Trudy Visker, and Jenny Brendtro.
The Valley program helped make this year's Adoption Day celebration "O-FISH-AL". Chandene Krome and Mariann Malone - two amazing volunteers - helped transform the jury room into an underwater oasis filled with all thing
s fish: fish crackers, fish candies, fish games, and fish decorations galore. Twenty-five children found "O-FISH-AL" permanent homes!
Thank you to our wonderful sponsors for making t
he celebration happen: Dianne Olsen, OCS, ACRF, Ink Spot, Fred Meyer, Special Events, Cecily Skoog-Moore, Valley Quilters Guild, Tutka LLC, Pillows for Kids, and all the staff at the Palmer court house!
While the year 2016 was a successful year for the Valley CASA program, so much more work needs to be done. If you, or anyone you know, is willing to become a CASA volunteer, please contact Jessica Clarkson at
. Make a New Year's resolution worth keeping, donate your time to an abused or neglected child!
Yukon Kuskokwim Delta CASA
A partnership between Association of Village Council Presidents
and Office of Public
I'm trying to stay warm in my office here in Bethel which has been having heating issues.
I traveled to Anchorage for the BIA Leadership conference and was able to make connections with tribal members across the state to recruit for the upcoming core training in Bethel. Stay tuned for dates and times.
Friends of Alaska CASA
FAC would like to wish all readers a happy holiday season as we update you on recent events:
Friends of Alaska CASA held its 20th Annual Silent Quilt Auction on November 26th and thanks to an unprecedented level of support from local quilters and bidding it was the most successful auction yet. Not only were there a record number of quilt donations (233) but also a record fundraising total of over $31,000. Mary Hacker was the raffle winner of a beautiful quilt made and donated by Sharon Hillstrom. This year's auction was held in honor of former CASA state director, Marion Hallum. FAC would like to thank all the volunteers (particularly long-time event organizer Debby Hudson) and bidders who helped make this such a wonderful event.
FAC is honored to welcome two new talented members of our Board of Directors: Kelvin Pace of Anchorage and Jamie Rizzo of Wasilla. Kelvin is a psychologist and owner of the independent practice, Kpace Counseling. He is also a US Army veteran and graduate of University of Alaska Anchorage. Jamie currently serves as a CASA while also working as a human resources specialist for CCS Early Learning/Head Start. She is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University.
News From OCS
Tribal State Collaboration
by Christy Lawton, OCS Director
Centralized Intake has been talked about for years and suddenly we are full speed ahead! Beginning on July 1
st, 2016, Intake began the first phase of centralization by consolidating the chain of command. This first step will allow for increased consistency of screening decisions across the state.
Discussion surrounding Intake began over three years ago. In 2012, it was noted that screen out rates had a wide range of variation depending on which region was screening the report. Alaska's average screen out rate of 58.5% was significantly higher than the national average screen out rate of 38%.
Reporters felt that it could be difficult to get a hold of OCS, which was causing frustration and jeopardizing safety. Meanwhile, management also began looking into ways to reduce the on-call burden for staff in small offices. The two initiatives eventually led to research on centralizing as a way to address both concerns. Many other states have struggled with similar issues, and over half of the nation has found that centralizing their intake functions led to improved responsiveness to the community and increased consistency in screening decisions - which ultimately leads to safer children.
The centralization of intake functions will impact all areas of OCS, as well as the community. Growing pains are common whenever there is a large organizational change. Right now, caseworkers may be feeling the pressure of an increase in P2s as Intake becomes more consistent in the application of policies. Caseworkers will also begin to experience benefits to centralization, including a significantly reduced phone call burden during on-call hours, as Intake workers will eventually be staffed 24/7. We do anticipate this large practice change to take a couple years prior to completion.
Currently, data is being gathered and plans developed to move toward Phase II of centralization. Exciting developments on the horizon include an online reporting form, restructuring Intake workload around the state to better address the volume of faxes and calls that are received in each region, ongoing training for intake staff, and a new hotline phone system. The changes will significantly improve the ease of reporting for the community and also facilitate real-time data collection and overall system monitoring. Ultimately, this change will lead to better outcomes with a streamlined process that not only facilitates easier access to OCS for reporters but also leads to more consistent decision making around the state!