Winter 2021
Georgia CASA is pleased to announce the release of The Guardian ad Litem in Dependency Proceedings: A Guide to Best Interest Advocacy, authored by Jerry Bruce, Georgia CIP Director at Georgia Supreme Court Committee on Justice for Children, and Angela Tyner, Advocacy Director at Georgia CASA. The Guide will help inform, influence, and improve the quality of best interest advocacy for abused or neglected children involved in juvenile court proceedings. 

Over the course of the past year, the Georgia Supreme Court Committee on Justice for Children (Georgia’s Court Improvement Program) and Georgia CASA have embarked on a joint project to strengthen best interest advocacy across the state.

Since 2014, Georgia’s Juvenile Code has required that all children in dependency cases have a guardian ad litem (GAL) and that a CASA should be the GAL whenever possible. While the code outlines the roles and responsibilities of the GAL, it does not offer much guidance as to how that role is to be exercised; therefore, there continues to be a disparity of practice in best interest advocacy across the state.

In an effort to create some uniformity in practice and to capitalize on the momentum of a statewide movement to improve the quality of legal representation for children, parents, and agencies, we created The Guardian ad Litem in Dependency Proceedings: A Guide to Best Interest Advocacy. Written for juvenile court judges and practitioners, the Guide offers legal authority for the positions it takes relating to the full inclusion of the GAL, an officer of the court, in all aspects of court proceedings.

We’re excited about the possibility for such a resource to impact and strengthen practice and believe that the Guide’s suggested principles will create conditions for court improvement through strengthening the consistency and quality of advocacy and legal decision-making. The Guide merely presents an opening for what we hope will become a continuing conversation regarding court improvement in best interest advocacy in Georgia’s juvenile courts.

A special thank you goes out to all who contributed to the publication for their support and commitment to quality legal representation and advocacy.
In this short clip, Jeff Sprinkle of Northeast Georgia CASA shares his personal experience with CASA and families in Northeast Georgia. This video segment is an excerpt from Georgia CASA's By Giving, We Receive More: Three CASA Volunteer Stories video, published in 2020. For links to both the full and excerpted videos, visit our You Tube page.
On February 11th, Georgia CASA hosted a virtual edition of CASA Day at the Capitol with 375 registered attendees. This annual event is held to bring awareness to the needs of children in foster care, as we remain committed to CASA advocacy during this challenging time. We also show appreciation for the support received from our elected officials. Highlighted speakers during the event included youth policy advocate speaker Gabrielle Willis, President of Georgia Peers Advocating for Change, and Representatives Katie Dempsey and Shelly Hutchinson. A Governor's Proclamation, declaring February 11, 2021, as CASA Day at the Capitol was shared. If you missed the event, the recorded version is available on YouTube. Please click here to view photos from the event. You can also search #GaCASADayatCap on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to view additional photos posted from around the state.
Lori Pupp Re-Joins Team as Senior Advocacy Manager
Welcome to Lori Pupp who rejoined Georgia CASA in January in a new role as Senior Advocacy Manager! Lori leads a wide range of child advocacy supports to improve the consistency and quality of CASA volunteer advocacy statewide. Her primary emphasis is to support effective advocacy around complex issue areas related to safety, well-being, and permanency for children.  She is also a primary liaison and resource for staff throughout the CASA network in Georgia as well as with partner child welfare agencies.
LaFayette Young in New Role as Training & Inclusion Specialist
LaFayette Young, who joined the Georgia CASA team in June 2018 as an Advocacy Specialist, began serving in a new capacity in January as the Training & Inclusion Specialist. In this newly created position, LaFayette supports the implementation of race equity and social justice supports as part of Georgia CASA’s commitment to informed advocacy.

He also continues in lead training roles for the CASA network in Georgia around child advocacy and supporting and preparing new CASA staff and volunteers in Georgia.
Lori Derhammer Reaches 20 Years of Service Milestone
As the Communications & Donor Relations Manager, Lori spearheads internal and external communications, including newsletters, social media, donor appeals, acknowledgement and recognition, proposals, and grant reporting as well as board and fundraising coordination. Lori is an integral part in Georgia CASA’s marketing, recruitment, and fundraising activities, as well as outreach and storytelling, all of which have exponentially increased in recent years. Behind the scenes, Lori oversees the annual signature event, ensuring a tireless group of volunteers are supported and immersed in raising awareness and funds for the CASA mission. Lori ensures that the CASA mission and its people are at the forefront of all that we do and remain the driving force for our future success.

Her reach and scope go far without any necessary fanfare or grand gestures. Never expectant and always appreciative, Lori brings calm and reassurance to all those around her. The Georgia CASA team wouldn’t be complete without Lori sharing CASA’s impact far and wide. The next time you see a post, article, video, advertisement, email, award, or tribute mentioning Georgia CASA, know that you too have been impacted by Lori’s work and diligence, not just once but many times before and many more times to come.
Michele Thomas (pictured on right), long-serving CASA volunteer with CASA of Forsyth County in Cumming, was approached by her friend Lynn Gendusa (pictured on left) who wanted to donate a refurbished dollhouse to a young girl in foster care. Michele had previously told her friend about her volunteer work as a CASA advocate serving children in foster care. CASA of Forsyth County identified two sisters currently being served, a four-year-old and an eight-year-old, and worked out the amazing gift opportunity for the holidays.

Michele Thomas and Lynn Gendusa delivered the dollhouse to CASA of Forsyth County and then the girls’ CASA volunteer delivered it to them at the foster home. Lynn took painstaking effort to perfect every detail of the dollhouse, to include hand painting a ‘framed’ picture of a church that was put above the couch. (See dollhouse pictures below.)

Lynn, a writer from Roswell whose article about the refurbished dollhouse recently appeared in The Northside Neighbor, stated that “during the long hours spent restoring the old house, I envisioned a little girl seeing it for the first time. Every stitch, and with every stroke of paint, I saw a child’s face and knew it was to belong to one little person whose belief in love and hope needed mending.

She also stated in her article the following: “The old, neglected house was now restored to its original beauty. There is hope in everything broken if only we take the time to mend them. However, the real magic lies in the CASA teams and the countless volunteers who work tirelessly to protect over 435,000 foster children [nationwide] whose dreams are broken.

Thank you to community volunteers like Lynn Gendusa who support the CASA organization in unique ways, as well as those, like CASA volunteer Michele Thomas, who serve as CASA advocates and also tell others about the role of the CASA program.
Lynn Gendusa with CASA of Forsyth County Staff
Thank you to our donors who supported the work of Georgia CASA for Fall 2020. Because of your investment, more children were provided with a CASA volunteer to amplify their voices. We truly appreciate your investment in children!

If you are not yet part of our donor group, you can give online here! Please consider becoming a Georgia CASA donor or give your next gift as a repeat donor. You can make a difference with a gift of any amount - and a recurring gift is an easy and convenient way to give! Your support is critical and much appreciated as CASA volunteers continue to serve children and 'keep their eyes on them' even more during these challenging times of COVID-19.
February 23 - 24: Georgia Conference on Children & Families (virtual)
May 1 - 2: National CASA's Walk. Run. Thrive. (virtual)
August 7: Save the Date: Georgia CASA Conference

Video About Becoming a CASA Volunteer in Georgia

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