CASA CONNECTOR
Spring 2022
SPOTLIGHT SERIES CONTINUES:
THE POWER OF THE CASA EXPERIENCE
We continue with the fifth spotlight in our series on individuals whose personal and professional trajectory was influenced by their CASA involvement.

In this issue, we spotlight Kelli James Freeman, a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG) appointed to represent the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) for Floyd County, Georgia.
 
Kelli graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a minor in history. Immediately following, she was given the opportunity to lobby on the state level for the Georgia Family Counsel, a nonprofit research and education organization geared toward strengthening families and improving youth outcomes in the community. After this experience, she entered law school at Mercer University with an eye toward public policy and service and focused her studies on family and juvenile law.
 
In 2008, Kelli was chosen as Georgia CASA’s legal intern through the Emory Law Summer Child Advocacy Program. The summer internship turned into a year-long endeavor as she worked alongside Georgia CASA’s Advocacy Director, Angela Tyner, who gave her a backstage look into the inner workings of local, state, and national CASA programs and child advocacy in general. During her year with Georgia CASA, she had the opportunity to participate in statewide CASA program trainings, affiliate program development meetings, the Children’s Justice Act Advisory Committee (now the Children’s Justice Act Task Force), as well as conduct extensive research on the impacts of ever-changing national and state laws related to permanency and well-being for children who experienced abuse or neglect. Her time with Georgia CASA was a springboard for her legal career.
 
After graduating from law school in 2009, Kelli worked in the dual role of Child’s Attorney/Guardian ad Litem (GAL) with Floyd County Juvenile Court. Her internship with Georgia CASA had shifted her career focus from a desire to work behind the scenes in the nonprofit/policy arena to working more directly with children by advocating for their rights and well-being in the courtroom setting. As a new attorney, she was tasked with managing a high caseload of children involved in the local judicial system, including not only abused or neglected children but also certain delinquent children and other children in need of services. Understandably, she felt the weight of her new position immediately, yet was aware and able to call upon the local CASA program for support in the more complicated cases to ensure every single child on her caseload had their needs and wishes heard.
 
After more than seven years in the position, Kelli was appointed in 2017 as a Special Assistant Attorney General (SAAG) to represent Floyd County Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). She now represents the agency responsible for providing services and protection of children and families in need. As an attorney for DFCS, she is even more appreciative of the role of CASA volunteers within the child welfare system. While Kelli sometimes misses her one-on-one representation and interaction with the children that come through the court, she is confident their voices will be heard and represented by their lawyers and amplified by their CASA volunteers. The CASA program is an integral component of the multidisciplinary team that serves at-risk children and families, and she is thankful to continue as a member of the team through her representation of DFCS.
 
When asked about one of the most impactful things she learned as a Georgia CASA intern, Kelli responded that it opened her eyes to the importance of collaboration and cooperation between the various agencies and individuals involved in representing and serving children and families who need support and protection the most. She was able to see the broader picture that it truly does take everyone working together to provide for the overall well-being and best interest of children.
 
Kelli advises CASA volunteers to be involved in the planning, meetings, and trainings of all the different agencies that could and will have an impact on the children they serve. CASA volunteers provide a very important, impartial viewpoint for children’s best interests, so speak up in those various settings, but especially in court. This also garners a greater understanding of how all the players in the child advocacy arena serve and impact children and case outcomes. Without this, CASA volunteers would be working with blinders on as to the overarching needs of the children they represent.
 
With DFCS and other child welfare agencies throughout the state currently faced with an overload of cases and a shortage of workers that can create high turnover and instability for children and families served, Kelli recognizes how the CASA program stands to fill the advocacy void when someone on a child’s team is missing and/or ever-changing. A CASA volunteer could be the only constant person in a child’s life as the child navigates the system.
To end on a more personal note, Kelli was raised on a farm just south of Macon and feels like she is on a daily path to her roots. Now residing in the far northwestern suburbs of Atlanta with her husband and two young daughters, she is trying to convince her family to go against the HOA rules to build a huge garden and raise chickens. Who can blame her? A free veggie omelet every morning sounds delicious!
EVENTS WRAP-UP
CASA Day at the Capitol occurred on February 10th both onsite in Atlanta and virtually. CASA staff, board members, and volunteers across the state gathered to take part in this annual event that included a legislative briefing to prepare for legislative appointments, either in-person or virtually, during the legislative session. Onsite attendees also distributed CASA materials to each legislator's office.

At the close of the legislative session, the General Assembly increased the CASA network in Georgia's state funding by $200,000. Click here to view pictures from the event.



The Georgia CASA Luncheon & Fashion Show - CASA on the Catwalk - took place on April 12th in Buckhead. Mistress of Ceremonies Deidra Dukes, with FOX5 Atlanta, moderated the fashion show that featured fashions from Lilly Pulitzer at Phipps Plaza (models pictured above). The event included honored guest speaker Chief Justice David Nahmias of the Supreme Court of Georgia who gave a very inspirational speech and appeal for CASA volunteers.

Thank you to all event sponsors, including in-kind and silent auction donors, as well as all who participated in Georgia CASA's annual signature fundraising event. Click here to view pictures from the event.
SAVE THE DATE FOR THE GEORGIA CASA CONFERENCE: AUGUST 13TH IN ATLANTA
The Georgia CASA Conference will be held on Saturday, August 13th at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel & Convention Center. CASA staff, board members, and volunteers, as well as others from the child welfare arena in Georgia, will want to be part of this day-long conference to include three blocks of workshops as well as the affiliate CASA program awards, the Board Leadership Award, the Champion Award, and the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon where the CASA Volunteer of the Year in Georgia nominees will be recognized and the winner awarded. Check out the conference event page for the registration link coming soon as well as additional details as they become available.
MAY: NATIONAL FOSTER CARE MONTH
On the heels of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, each year May is recognized as National Foster Care Month. In Georgia, about 10,000 children are in foster care on any given day. Communities can work together to identify the right mix of supports to establish meaningful connections for children and youth experiencing foster care. We are thankful for the 2,700 CASA volunteers in Georgia who advocate for the best interests of those they serve and strive towards the vision for all children and youth in foster care to have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential with the support of permanent connections to family.
NEWS TIDBITS
In case you missed it, be sure to peruse our Impact Report covering the work of Georgia CASA during our most recent past fiscal year, July 2020 to June 2021.

During the past fiscal year, nearly 3,000 advocates continued to faithfully provide best-interest advocacy to nearly 10,000 children in foster care in the state. Georgia CASA strengthens and supports local CASA affiliates and ensures strong connections across the CASA network are maintained to empower CASA volunteers in their advocacy work.

Congratulations to Lori Pupp of the Georgia CASA Team for being selected to be on the 2022-2023 Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, and Human Trafficking State Expert Committee of Georgia's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC). Members of the committee are dedicated and committed to ensuring the best possible criminal justice response to child victims served in Georgia.
Belonging for Hope is a website that includes public health prevention campaigns and related resources from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) Prevention and Community Support Section (PCS). The campaigns build on PCS efforts to help make every community a place where all children grow up safe, people can provide for those they love, and families receive the care and support they deserve. Evidence shows combined efforts at the community level encourage strong families, healthy childhoods, and thriving neighborhoods. Check out the website's resources as everyone can help prevent child abuse and neglect for the well-being of their communities.

A related resource is Georgia's Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Plan, originally developed in 1993 and updated in 2020. The plan's vision is that all children and families in the state have equitable opportunities to grow and thrive in safe, stable, connected, and nurturing communities where they live, learn, work, and play. The plan is intended to help child - and family - serving organizations, community members, families, and businesses
create nurturing environments for healthy families. View the plan summary for more information and ways to get involved.
THANK YOU, DONORS!
Thank you to our donors who supported the work of Georgia CASA for Winter 2022. Because of your investment, more children were provided with a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interests. 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 recurring 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 greatly appreciated!
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
June 6: CASA/GAL Volunteer's Day
June 14 - 16: Volunteer Supervisor Training (Macon)
August 13: Georgia CASA Annual Conference (Atlanta)
September 14 - 15: Save the Date: Georgia's Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect (virtual)
October 12 - 14: Save the Date: Georgia Conference on Children & Families (Augusta)
November 30 - December 2: Save the Date: The Summit, Georgia's Child Welfare Conference (Alpharetta)

Video About Becoming a CASA Volunteer in Georgia

Interested in joining us to support CASA in Georgia?

Check out these easy ways to support Georgia CASA. Our Kroger Community Rewards number is IY574 or search by our full name - Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates.
Georgia CASA | 404-874-2888 | 800-251-4012 | gacasa.org

In partnership with local affiliates, our goal is that every child who must enter state custody will benefit from the best interest advocacy of a trusted, consistent CASA volunteer. We remain dedicated to supporting the CASA network in the provision of CASA volunteers for every child who comes to the attention of the juvenile court due to abuse or neglect.