Taking the Plunge
Greetings, CASA supporters!

I had a proud mama moment this past weekend.
My daughter, just shy of 4, worked up the courage to jump into the swimming pool all by herself. From the side, mind you, not the steps.

That may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme, but to a 4-year-old, it is very much a Big Deal. In the past, she demanded that her father or I catch her, refusing to risk the water splashing into her face or rushing over her head.
But over the weekend something clicked, and now jumping in from the side is all she wants to do.

I wish you could see her, in her mermaid swimsuit and orange floatie.
She pauses at the edge of the concrete to make sure we’re watching. Stretching out her arms like airplane wings, she begins the count. Sometimes it’s to three, sometimes it’s to “eleventeen” or twenty.

Then she pushes off, tucks her knees in and cannonballs into the pool. The water rushes over her head; sometimes she comes up sputtering. But now she immediately starts paddling for the steps so she can do it again.

May is National Foster Care Month, and it occurred to me that many of our foster families approach this important work much like my daughter approaches the pool. They stand poised, ready for the call from the caseworker. When it comes, they plunge headfirst into the child welfare system, a roller coaster ride of appointments, assessments and visits.

It’s not always a smooth entry. Sometimes they feel underwater, sometimes they sputter a little. But the incredible work that foster parents do – giving traumatized children a safe place to land – is absolutely vital to our communities and our state.

Without dedicated, determined foster parents and extended biological families, our children would continue to flounder. We at CASA are proud to honor foster families throughout this month each and every year.

May we all feel so strongly called to something that we fling our arms out, push off from the shore and jump right in, free of inhibitions and trusting in the process. Indeed, what a splash we could make if we all jumped together.

Emily Heglund
Executive Director

Interested in becoming a foster parent or Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)? Click here for information on Texas foster care. Click here to read about becoming a CASA volunteer.
CASA Cafe: Sex Trafficking Prevention
The Athens CASA Cafe was held May 24, 2018 on the topic of Sex Trafficking Prevention. Our speaker was Meghan Zuraw, Program Manager of the Texas Regional Office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the topic and had 65 attendees on the day of the presentation. Attendees included members of local law enforcement, CPS, non-profit organizations, other CASA chapters and plenty of CASA volunteers.

Meghan spoke about common misconceptions regarding how children become victims of sex trafficking and how these myths are spread through social media. She also discussed the prevalence of children in the child welfare system involved in sex trafficking either through a third party exploiting them, or through their own actions as runways who resort to sex work as a means to support themselves. 

NCMEC responds to all reports of possible child sex trafficking, last year they received 10,903 such reports. One in seven endangered runaways reported to NCMEC in 2017 were likely sex trafficking victims. 88% of these likely sex trafficking victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they went missing.

If you would like to know more about NCMEC and their programs, click the button below to visit their site.

Welcome May Graduates!

New volunteers in training take time out to pose for a class picture. From left to right: Miki Schmidt, DJ Schmidt, Mary Walker and Billy Harrison. Billy and Mary swear in Anderson County on May 31 and DJ and Miki in Cherokee County on June 1, 2018.
In Memoriam

May was a sad month in which we lost two of CASA’s ardent supporters. 

Services for Pamela Giles of Anderson County were Tuesday, May 22 at Tennessee Colony Church. Pam advocated for 8 years with CASA. She stood up for 20 children throughout a total of 13 cases in her time as a volunteer. Pam was a beloved member of our CASA family, friend to her community and made a difference in the lives of many. She will be sorely missed by everyone here at CASA of Trinity Valley.

On Saturday, May 26 at the First Presbyterian Church in Athens, we said goodbye to longtime CASA benefactor and friend Ethel Johns. Ethel and her husband, Frank, have been stellar CASA supporters and landlords for our Athens office for many years. Ethel volunteered with CASA of Trinity Valley and advocated for many children, helping them to find secure, permanent and loving homes. She was often referred to as “Grandma” by these children and established relationships with children and families extending long after the cases were closed.
Ethel’s legacy and intense passion for children and youth will continue in scholarships for students through Trinity Valley Community College for both Choir and Nursing, and Paris Junior College in Nursing. We have many fond memories of Ethel and are deeply saddened by her loss.

Please keep the Giles and Johns families in your thoughts and prayers. Our hearts go out to them in this time of mourning.
CASA Cafe: Testifying in Court
On May 9, 2018 Program Director Vickie Sussen and Attorney Steve Evans spoke at the Palestine CASA Cafe. The topic of the day was testifying in court, something all CASAs should be prepared to do when working a case. 

Mr. Evans gave excellent advice regarding answering questions: answer only what you are asked, and answer honestly. You don’t have to tell a story to the jury or the judge, you only need to tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer to the question, say so! You aren’t expected to know everything, and the best strategy when you are under oath and truly do not know is to simply admit it.
CASA Cafe is a great resource for our volunteers to expand their knowledge of the ins and outs of being a child advocate, and provides them an opportunity to talk about any questions or concerns they have in their cases. We hold a CASA Cafe each month and encourage all of our volunteers to join us in order to continue your education in advocacy and expand your interests in topics related to the work we do.
FREE Summer Camp Opportunity for Children
The Athens Service Unit of Salvation Army is looking for some amazing youth to go to a FREE week long camp. If you know a child that would benefit from this opportunity, please contact Salvation Army at 903-675-4357. 

Camp signup is open through June 22, 2018 and camp will take place July 9 through 14.

The Salvation Army Camp Hoblitzelle is located approximately 40 miles south of the Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex. Camp Hoblitzelle is seated on 1,200 acres of Texas pasture land, and is a traditional summer camp program providing the rich experience of camping in the context of a Christian community.

Hundreds of boys and girls, ages 7 to 16 come to Camp Hoblitzelle each summer, most in one week increments, to play together, learn from each other, and grow in their relationships with Christ and others. Campers live in cabins with kids in their same school grade and participate in a broad range of camp activities, from athletics to arts and everything in between.

Camp Hoblitzelle seeks to nurture physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually under the guidance and direction of college-age counselors who have been selected on the basis of their ability to lead, love, guide, and care for campers.