CASA CONNECTOR
Summer 2021
SPOTLIGHT SERIES:
THE POWER OF THE CASA EXPERIENCE
We continue with our second spotlight on individuals whose personal and professional trajectory was influenced by their CASA involvement.

We are pleased to spotlight Judge Amanda Heath, a juvenile court judge in the Augusta Judicial Circuit covering Burke, Columbia, and Richmond counties, a circuit that hears around 400 dependency petitions annually. Judge Heath was the first African-American woman to serve in this capacity. In addition to nearly five years on the bench, Judge Heath previously served as both a child attorney and Guardian ad Litem/child attorney in juvenile court dependency proceedings.

Born in Marietta, Judge Heath and her sister grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, where the family moved due to her father’s job relocation shortly after her birth. She remained connected to her Georgia roots through spending summers with her parents’ families in South Georgia. Upon her graduation from Hampton University, she knew she wanted to return to Georgia, so she attended law school at Mercer University in Macon. Calling Augusta home since 2011, Judge Heath gives back generously to her community through various service opportunities, including volunteer work with the children’s ministry at her church. Having parents who taught her ‘to whom much is given, much will be required,’ she puts this philosophy into practice through service to her community.

While in law school, Judge Heath was introduced to the CASA program at a Legal Aid Volunteer Association meeting. As soon as the CASA representative began speaking, she knew she wanted to get involved. With a love for working with children, she saw CASA as a way to advocate for children who truly needed a voice at very difficult times. Judge Heath was sworn-in as a Central Georgia CASA volunteer in 2009 to serve the Macon Judicial Circuit, serving for a year while in law school. She fondly remembers the time she took CPRS (Court Process Reporting System) training when she became a judge. Part of the training was to set up a username and password and there were technical issues. As it turned out, she was already in the CPRS system from when she served as a CASA volunteer.

Judge Heath’s time as a CASA volunteer provided her with several impactful lessons that she continues to keep in the front of her mind even today:

  • Children are resilient. When you read their cases on paper, your heart breaks. Often, though, once you meet the children it is amazing how they still have a light inside of them. 

  • It is so important for children to live in a safe, loving environment to be happy, healthy, and whole.

  • Consistency from the adults who are involved in the lives of children is key so the children can feel safe and supported. As a judge, she strives to ensure she orders the appropriate services and supports not just for the children, but also for the caregivers to ensure successful permanency.

Judge Heath has sound advice for CASA volunteers who work every day providing best interest advocacy for children in foster care. She encourages volunteers to never hesitate to share what they know or make a recommendation that conflicts with what others in the courtroom may say. While it can be intimidating if a volunteer’s recommendation is the opposite of everyone else, volunteers should still share what has been observed and what is believed to be in the best interest of the children no matter what. Judges want as much information as possible to make the best decision for the well-being of the children and families that come before them in their courtrooms. Be bold!

In her role, Judge Heath has seen a recent increase in youth in foster care becoming subjected to sex trafficking and entering the system as CSEC (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children). CASA volunteers and staff can have a significant role in this area by being stable and committed adult supporters who are trauma-responsive to the unique needs of these youth and help them heal from their trauma.

In reflecting on successes in the child welfare system, Judge Heath states the following: “Anytime we can return children to a safe, loving home environment with their parent/guardian or that of a loving caregiver (kin/fictive kin/adoptive parent), that is the best day for the child! I’ve observed that the child welfare system is doing a better job in their diligent searches to exhaust all possible kinship placements or guardianships where appropriate to keep children with caregivers they identify as their family.”

Judge Heath highly commends the CASA program for the positive impact it has on the child welfare system. The CASA program provides a great service to the children, DFCS, and the court by being excellent advocates and investigators. CASA volunteers go the extra mile to ask the question, follow up with the school/agency, or research local community supports that benefit children and families. CASA volunteers may also help find relatives who want to serve as guardians for children. Especially during the pandemic, the CASA program was innovative in ensuring socially distanced appropriate contact with children was made via ride-byes, driveway check-ins, or virtual visits to make sure children continued to be supported.

Judge Heath has served as the board chair for Child Enrichment, the umbrella program for CASA of the Augusta Judicial Circuit, and recently was appointed to the National CASA Judicial Leadership Council. In addition to her volunteer work, Judge Heath enjoys traveling, reading, and singing.
GEORGIA CASA CONFERENCE TAKES PLACE ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 7TH WITH ONLINE ENCORE EXPERIENCE THE FOLLOWING WEEK
After a challenging year, Georgia CASA is proud to offer our annual training opportunity – the Georgia CASA Conference – in person at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis on Saturday, August 7 to 375 CASA volunteers, board members, and staff throughout the state. Additionally, an online encore version will be available the following week.

With safety precautions in mind, each affiliate CASA program was allotted a limited number of registration slots for the in-person conference. If you are a CASA staff, volunteer, or board member, please contact your affiliate CASA program to inquire about any available in-person slots.

In addition to the in-person conference, this year Georgia CASA is hosting a virtual encore following the live conference so everyone who would like to attend the conference can. With the online encore experience, which will take place during the week of August 9 - 13, all participants will have the opportunity to watch recordings of each session from the conference. Registration for the online encore is now available here.

The Georgia CASA Conference offers a full day of 15 workshops for attendees to hear from professionals in the fields of child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and volunteer and nonprofit management. This year's conference includes an opening session and plenary and the Awards of Excellence for affiliates. The day also includes the Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon featuring keynote speaker Sixto Cancel and the presentation of the CASA Volunteer of the Year Award, Board Leadership Award, and CASA Champion Award.
WELCOME TO GEORGIA CASA'S NEW BOARD MEMBERS
Welcome to the following new board members, who began their 3-year term of service on July 1st:
  • Elena Chang, Renegade Consulting Collective (Atlanta)
  • Wendy Cobb, Perspecta (Atlanta)
  • Chelsea DeWaters, Council of Programs Representative, Murray/Whitfield CASA (Dalton)
  • Don Miller, CASA Volunteer (Jasper)
  • Susanna Patterson, Esq., Council of Programs Representative, Central Georgia CASA (Macon)
  • Carlene Redmond, Juvenile Court of Cobb County (Mableton)
  • Heather Steen, Esq., Central Garden and Pet (Dunwoody)
  • Susie Weller, Council of Programs Representative, Children First (Athens-Oconee CASA) (Athens)

Congratulations to long-serving board member Jack McMillan (Global Drying Equipment) who has become a life board member.

Special acknowledgments are made to the following board officers who will continue in their leadership roles for fiscal year 2022:
  • Chair - Mandira Mehra, MRI Software (Atlanta)
  • Vice Chair - Lauren Hyatt, American Cancer Society (Atlanta)
  • Secretary - Dianne Scoggins, Community Volunteer (Ellijay)
  • Treasurer - Daniel Hathaway, Hathaway Development (Atlanta)
HIGHLIGHTS FROM AN EVENING OF APPRECIATION EVENT
On the evening of May 18, Georgia CASA held An Evening of Appreciation celebratory event for our donors and supporters. The event shared how generous donations help to support meaningful CASA connections all across the state. The experiences and stories shared were just a few examples of how CASA advocacy has continued to shape and influence the lives of children and families and the child welfare system.

We encourage you to watch the recorded event if you have not already done so. You will be inspired and encouraged as you view stories from CASA volunteers and youth with foster care experience. Also included are brief videos about Georgia CASA's support of the CASA network during 2020 and a montage from various donors about why they support Georgia CASA.
 
If you are looking for a brief, inspirational introduction to the CASA network in Georgia, be sure to share the recorded event link with your friends and family.
GEORGIA CASA BOARD MEMBER SANDY DAY RECEIVES PRESIDENT'S AWARD FROM THE JUNIOR LEAGUE
OF ATLANTA
At the Spring general membership meeting of The Junior League of Atlanta, Georgia CASA board member Sandy Day received a President's Award for her courageous efforts in furthering the League's mission through her hard work, tenacity, and service to the Atlanta community.

As stated by Bre West, League President: "Sandy has always ensured she stays engaged and available to everyone that needs her. This year she has been an outstanding Sustainer Chair supporting all of our Sustainer reps and has also gone above and beyond to support our headquarters staff and members who needed help. At every opportunity she has worked behind the scenes to help us organize headquarters, make the gifts we are giving community partners or each other beautiful, and reach out to anyone that seems like they might need to hear they are doing a good job. She wants no fanfare but deserves to be recognized for the love and support she gives this League. She is someone that exudes every part of the League's mission every day."
We are honored to have Sandy as a Georgia CASA board member. Before joining the board last year, she served as Co-Chair of the Georgia CASA Luncheon & Fashion Show for three years and served on the event planning committee prior to serving as Co-Chair. Sandy is a phenomenal supporter of Georgia CASA and her community as a whole, and a great mentor to others who work alongside her. Congratulations on your League President's Award, Sandy!
THANK YOU, DONORS!
Thank you to our donors who supported the work of Georgia CASA for Spring 2021. 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 has been critical and much appreciated as CASA volunteers continued to serve children and 'keep their eyes on them' during the challenging times of COVID-19. As we look toward the future, CASA volunteers continue to be a critical component of the child welfare system.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
August 7: Georgia CASA Conference (Atlanta)
August 24 - 26: Training of the Facilitator (Macon)
September 16: Georgia Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect (Stone Mountain)
November 17 - 19: 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.