October 2019

You've heard the phrase "actions speak louder than words." This newsletter highlights people of action and provides opportunities to learn, connect, and recharge. Have you considered becoming a volunteer attorney? Now is a GREAT time!

If you haven't met Kalie and Jelena yet, you're in for a treat. Big congrats to Travis on winning a $1,000 scholarship at the Bright Lights Big Dreams Lad Lake Gala! Only a handful of young people are selected for this award.

Looking forward to connecting with volunteers at the MKE Film Festival!

Susan Conwell, JD
Executive Director
Woman of Action
by Joan Ruffino
Kalie Bach is a Woman of Action. She joined the National Guard when she was 17. At age 21, she became a non-commissioned officer of the Active Guard Reserve (AGR), an active duty member of the National Guard in Wisconsin. After being promoted to staff sergeant at age 24, Kalie now works full time for the Guard, managing logistics, including army equipment, transportation, food, uniforms, and other needs of soldiers. In addition to being a platoon sergeant, Kalie supervises and mentors 8-12 other soldiers.

In addition to her life as a soldier and her full time job, Kalie was taking 9 college credits and raising a toddler of her own. Her life was full. But when a traumatic event occurred within her extended family two years ago, Kalie felt compelled to work on behalf of abused and neglected children. Once she learned about Kids Matter Inc., she knew she wanted to become a CASA volunteer.

Before even beginning her training, Kalie initiated a six-week donation drive on Facebook to collect children’s clothing and toys for Kids Matter. The Facebook drive generated enough donations to fill a pickup truck! In addition to collecting donations for Kids Matter, Kalie attended the WI statewide CASA Conference in 2018, gaining a sense of the scope of the issues in Wisconsin.

Perhaps it was Kalie’s military training that had her working toward solutions before even beginning her training as a CASA. Perhaps it was her family background or belief in the power of action. In any case, Kalie completed her training at the first available opportunity and was sworn in as a CASA in January 2019.

Not long after, Kalie began working with a teenage girl, “Amaya” who had been living in a group home for nearly 3 years, since the age of 12. Kalie took time to get to know Amaya and learned that her greatest hope was to live with family, especially an aunt who had expressed a willingness to care for her.

This seemed like a hopeful solution, but before it could be pursued, Kalie and the care team needed to help Amaya be safe. For about two years, Amaya had been a frequent runaway from the group home and could often not be located. On a few occasions, when Amaya did return to the home, she was found to have engaged in risky or unsafe practices.

Knowing the risks of human trafficking in Wisconsin, Kalie put a plan into action quickly. She worked with Kids Matter staff to set up interventions for Amaya that included a team of professionals and a safety plan, as well as several one-on-one conversations with Amaya herself. Amaya knew that her hope to live with her aunt depended on her ability to remain safe. She worked to stabilize herself at the group home, working with Kalie and the team of professionals in place.

In the meantime, Kalie was working closely with Amaya’s aunt to learn and understand the process of gaining kinship care. One obstacle was that Amaya’s aunt and uncle lived in a studio apartment where there was not adequate space or privacy for a teenaged girl. Kalie set to work helping Amaya’s aunt search for and secure a larger apartment that worked well for the family. This effort required hours of conversation and problem-solving between Kalie and Amaya’s family.

In addition to the logistics of obtaining kinship care, there was behavioral and emotional preparation the family needed to do. Kalie spent time helping the family prepare for parenting a 15-year-old teen who had experienced trauma and risk.

This summer, Amaya’s aunt did receive full custody of Amaya through the kinship care program. Soon after, Amaya moved in with her aunt and uncle.

How are they doing now? Some logistics still need to be worked out, like transportation to and from school. But according to Kalie, Amaya is not lashing out as much as she had done in the group home. She is happy that she can go outside and do things on her own. She is getting used to her freedom and reports to Kalie that she is “just happy to go outside and not be controlled for every single second.” Kalie notes that without the presence of frequent scolding or judging, Amaya is less rebellious.

One new goal that Amaya has expressed is the desire to earn her own money. Kalie and Amaya have discussed strategies for getting a part-time job. Kalie took Amaya to the library to take a personality assessment to consider the type of job that might be a good fit. Although Amaya has no job experience yet, Kalie helped her to type up a resume based on the skills and strengths she does have. As Amaya embarks on her job search, Kalie will be there to brainstorm solutions to obstacles as they arise.

Finding a stable permanent home for Amaya was the result of strong collaboration between Amaya’s family, her CASA volunteer, Kids Matter staff, and the CPS case manager. But Kalie proved herself to be a true Woman of Action. With the current popularity of superhero movies, it’s impossible to miss the similarities between Kalie and Captain America who says, “I’m with you until the end of the line.”
When asked to advise new CASA volunteers about their work, Kalie stressed the importance of family support and self-care. She notes that being a CASA volunteer does take time and it’s important for your family to understand why you’re committed to it. She says, “Make sure your family knows that what you are doing is really important.” Being a CASA volunteer is a big responsibility that may put you in contact with traumatic situations, it’s essential that every CASA volunteer proactively takes steps to care for themselves.
Milwaukee Film Festival (Oct. 17-31)
Need some renewal? Inspiration? Want to learn about situations affecting youth in our community?

Join us at the Milwaukee Film Festival to watch a movie with our CASA volunteers.   Check out our Film festival picks below and browse a full list of the films at this year’s festival here . CASA volunteers receive continuing education credit.
Mickey and the Bear - Teenager Mickey is playing a delicate balancing act: trying to keep her opioid-addicted, grief-stricken father (James Badge Dale) afloat while also pursuing her own dreams to get away to college. As their relationship becomes more toxic, she has to find the will to forge her own independence. The first feature from MFF shorts alum Annabelle Attanasio provides a beautifully lensed look at small-town America and our collective national struggles.
Time: Saturday, October 26 @ 8:00 pm at the Oriental Theatre East 
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open - A chance encounter following a brutal instance of domestic violence brings Áila and Rosie together on a rainy Vancouver night. Both women navigate the trauma of this shared experience, exploring contemporary womanhood, indigeneity, and unexpected sisterhood in this intimate story of women who discover they're not as far apart as it may seem at first.
Time : Monday, October 21 @ 3:45 pm at the Times Cinema 
Okko's Inn - When Okko's parents die in a car accident, she is sent to live with her grandmother at a rural Japanese inn whose motto is welcoming all and rejecting none, which becomes very clear after she begins to meet the friendly ghosts who live there. Okko struggles with these newfound acquaintances until she begins to learn that helping others is the key to finding happiness, in this beautifully animated film that will delight all ages.
Time: Saturday, October 26 @ 1:15 pm at the Times Cinema 
Meet our new AmeriCorps Member, Jelena!
"Hello, my name is Jelena Stankovic and I’m thrilled to be the AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator at Kids Matter for the next year. I’m a recent graduate from UW Parkside where I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in philosophy. I knew in college that I wanted to do a year of service after completing my degree; I’ve always had a passion for working and volunteering with children (I previously worked for the Wisconsin Early Autism Project) and I plan to go on to law school once I’m done with my year of service, so I believe I’ve found the perfect match here at Kids Matter. In college I was lucky enough to be a part of the Sumadija Serbian Folk Dance Ensemble for three years and love being able to share my culture with the city of Milwaukee. This year I’ll be taking a step back and teaching one of the younger groups while I focus on completing my year of service and being the most effective volunteer coordinator I can be. My other passions include travelling, enjoying a good cup of coffee, and getting to know the wonderful CASA volunteers that I’ll be working with this year." Welcome, Jelena!
Trainings in the Community-
CASA Continuing Education Opportunities
Youth Mental Health First Aid
Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. Register here and notify [email protected] to earn CEU credits.

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 9 AM - 5 PM 
Location: Community Advocates Training Center, 6900 N. Brown Deer Road

O'Brien Fellowship Conference: Healing the Legacy of Violence
In Milwaukee, more than 100 people are killed in homicides in a typical year. Hundreds more are shot. These deaths and injuries have a profound effect on our community and leave lasting trauma on families and friends.

In the series “Cycles of Violence,” Ashley Luthern, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter and former O’Brien Fellow, explored what drives homicides and shootings, shared what it means for families to get justice and investigated efforts to stop the violence.

At this free event sponsored by the O'Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism, we’ll go behind-the-scenes of the reporting process and hear from those most deeply affected. A resource fair with refreshments will take place from 6 to 6:30 p.m. During this time, you can speak to community leaders and learn how to get involved. Register here and notify [email protected] to earn CEU credits.

Date: Wednesday, November 6, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: No Studios, 1037 W. McKinley Ave. in the Pabst complex.
There will be free parking for this event adjacent to the building.
Free Training for Volunteer Attorneys
Did you know for every 1 child in foster care with relatives there are 20 children being raised by grandparents or other relatives outside of the foster care system?

YOU can help children raised by relatives outside of the foster care system! Kids Matter attorney Beth Lauck is leading a volunteer lawyer training this fall on minor guardianships. This CLE is free for attorneys who commit to or currently provide pro bono services to low-income clients.

For more detailed information on the minor guardianship training and other sessions, visit vlp.legalaction.org . Sign up today!

Thanks NCJW-Milwaukee!
A BIG thank you to the National Council of Jewish Women - Milwaukee Chapter! The NCJW-Milwaukee is celebrating 125 years of advancing social change through advocacy and service. Thanks to the NCJW-Milwaukee Chapter, our donation bins were overflowing with backpacks and school supplies! Thank you for fostering connections in our community and supporting our kids as they go back to school!

We want to give a special thank you to the Advocacy Vice Presidents Hope Liu and Adria Willenson, not pictured.
E.D. Susan Conwell with Margie and shared NCJW & CASA Volunteer Andrea Konz.
Our AmeriCorps Member Jelena speaking to a NCJW member.
Workplace Giving Is Starting
If you participate in United Way, Community Shares, Combined Federal Campaign, or the State Employee Combined Campaign you can select Kids Matter as your charity of choice. Thank you for your support!
ICYMI: Check out the last newsletter featuring horses!