August 2020 | In This Issue

 Working with Youth to Develop a Transition Plan

Youth who will exit foster care due to age restrictions rather than a permanent placement face many challenges as they prepare to leave care and begin their adult lives. To ensure that youth transition successfully and experience positive outcomes, Federal legislation sets forth specific provisions requiring transition plans and what they should include. While it is important to understand and meet the legislative requirements for these plans, it is also crucial that child welfare professionals working with youth view transition planning as a process that unfolds over time and through close youth engagement rather than as a checklist of items to accomplish. 

141 CASA volunteers served 318 children in July and helped find safe, permanent homes for 21 of those children. 143 children are still waiting for someone to be their voice.
Congratulations to Addison on her recent adoption! We want to share a special thank you to Judge Tess Stromberg in Ascension Parish for officiating her adoption and to her CASA, Samantha Mathison, for being a powerful voice for Addison.

 We are so excited to share photos from Alyse's recent adoption day! Congratulations, Alyse! We extend a special thank you to her CASA Volunteer, Claire Dimaria, for being Alyse's voice and advocate!

On July 20, Nick received the best gift of all...permanency to his forever home with Mindy and Michelle. He now has a loving, safe, and permanent family to enjoy and grow up in. A big thank you to Honorable Judge Tess Stromberg in the Ascension Parish Court for her ruling on this case during the COVID-19 situation. Also, a big thank you to Nick's CASA Advocate, Gary Miller, who visited and had picnic lunches with Nick.

Congratulations to Mack! Mack was taken into care at 5 months old and was recently adopted into his forever home! His adoption was facilitated via Zoom by Judge Kleibert. Thank you to Jill Johnson, current CAS staff member and former CASA Volunteer, for serving as Mack's CASA from the time he was taken into care until January of this year. Thank you to Damona Guillera for serving as Mack's CASA from March until his adoption! 

Training starts the week of September 1st.

Want to learn more about becoming a CASA Volunteer? 
Register for one of our upcoming virtual information sessions. 

Lunch & Learn Information Sessions: 

August 27th at 11:30 AM
September 10th at 11:30 AM
September 24th at 11:30 AM

 Recruiters' Corner 

5 Positive Life Lessons Learned from Volunteering

There are so many lessons learned from volunteering. But when was the last time you engaged in the act of community service?

Today's world is filled with many incredible ways that we can offer our time to volunteer projects or activities.

It can be highly beneficial for our mind, body, and spirit to offer more selfless service on a day-to-day basis.

Whether it be helping in a "homeless garden project" in the local community, rebuilding homes for victims of natural disasters, or traveling abroad to teach children how to read, there are many amazing life lessons learned from volunteering.


"Life is all about giving, not gaining. Not only does giving make us feel happy, but it is also suitable for our health and evokes gratitude."

Congratulations to our newest CASA Volunteers!

Emily Kramer was recently sworn-in by Judge Tess Stromberg in Ascension Parish.

Kerry Cranford and Patricia Francis were recently sworn-in by Judge Connie Aucoin in St. Charles Parish.

Kristie Harris
Ascension Parish Volunteer Spotlight

Kristie Harris has been serving as a CASA Volunteer in Ascension Parish since 2019. She has been serving on the same case since being sworn-in on February 22, 2019. Kristie has truly embodied the principles and mission of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) role.  She has fervently advocated to preserve placements, ensured sibling visits occurred, demanded tutoring and educational evaluations, and traveled without hesitation to four placements to support permanency for the children. When one visit a month did not seem to meet the immediate needs of the children, she selflessly visited multiple times because of the relationship she had established with the children and their caregivers.

With one sibling remaining in care to date, she has managed to maintain contact in the new normal of COVID-19 with FaceTime. Although the last sibling was recently moved to an adoptive placement over four hours travel one-way, her focus has remained constant. She plans to take a road-trip to visit the new placement, ensure that it is the best placement, and all the child's needs are being met.  Kristie has demonstrated to a child that although bad things happen, there are people that will come into your life that only add value to it and you do not have to do anything to earn it because you deserve it.  I salute you, Kristie, for being the change agent in the lives of children.

Cheryl Evans
Tangipahoa Parish Volunteer Spotlight

Cheryl Evans is a long-time resident of Hammond, LA.  She is recently married to her husband, Stan, and they have four children and fourteen grandchildren.  Cheryl loves God and family. She is an avid traveler who has enjoyed many amazing and spiritual road trips since retirement. Cheryl first learned about CASA through Liz Durham, another great CASA.  Her Christian faith allows her to give freely of herself and her time.  Cheryl completed her training and was sworn in October of 2019.

Cheryl was immediately assigned to her first case, a two-children sibling group.  It was a perfect match and she hit the ground running! Cheryl takes her CASA role very seriously. She connects with her children at least twice per month. They read and play together, but also take time to have personal conversations.  Cheryl's CASA kids are young but they know that if they need to talk to her, she is only a phone call away.  Cheryl says that her kids are always genuinely happy to see her which signifies that "she must be doing something right". Cheryl has built a great rapport with all parties in her CASA children's lives: parents, grandparents, foster care workers, teachers and therapists. Cheryl hopes and prays that when it comes time for her first case to close that it will be with a sound and content resolution for her kids. Cheryl knows that there is no perfect solution, but she will always do her best to get her kids' lives and living condition to be as close to perfect as possible. Cheryl looks forward to getting new cases and serving more children. Cheryl says that being a children's advocate has, so far, been a very rewarding experience. She definitely excels in advocating for the best interest of her children. Cheryl is a strong advocate and goes above and beyond her CASA duties. 

Important Information to Know - Even During a Pandemic

Our work has certainly looked and felt different since March of 2020!  We have been amazed at the courage so many of you have displayed in conducting in-person visits and the creativity in maintaining connections when in-person visits have not been possible.  As with many aspects of our lives, seeing our CASA children and gathering information has become more difficult as it relates to the safety concerns related to the pandemic. 

We are still charged with the duty of gathering the information needed to effectively advocate for our children.

Remember to keep your CASA Volunteer file up-to-date with your current
auto insurance card, driver's license, and contact information
And remember to visit your CASA child face-to-face at least once a month.

Stewards of Children is a revolutionary sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program believes and teaches that child safety is an adult's job. Stewards of Children is designed for organizations that serve children and youth. Child Advocacy Services has trained facilitators that can offer this course to your organization for only $10.00 per individual. This fee includes your materials, certificate for 2 hours of continuing education, and assists CAS in continuing our services for children through our CASA and CAC Programs.

Contact us at 800-798-1575 for information on scheduling a training.

To adhere to the current stay home mandate and social distancing orders, we are not currently hosting in-person trainings. 

Click here to see dates and locations for additional trainings offered through Child Advocacy Services.

20th JDC MDT Spotlight
Molly O'Flynn has been working in the 20th Judicial District Court system since 2015. She first began her career as a clerk in the judge's office, and then joined the 20th JDC District Attorney's office as an Assistant District Attorney in 2016. During her time as a clerk, she was able to attend civil, criminal, and juvenile court which sparked her interest in working with juveniles. When the opportunity to work with kids arose, she joined the DA's office where she is able to work on Child in Need of Care (CINC) cases, Family in Need of Services (FINS) cases, delinquency cases, and cases in which juveniles are victims of crimes.
Molly stated that she loves working in the 20th JDC because she enjoys working in the community and being able to work closely with everyone. Molly shared her appreciation for being a part of a team that is so kind, caring, and  friendly. She especially appreciates that the MDT can work together with a common interest and goal, which is to help protect and look out for the best interest of juveniles.
Thank you, Molly, for your dedication and passion to serve the families of East Feliciana Parish!

Sonja Taylor
23rd JDC MDT Spotlight
Sonja Taylor has been a juvenile detective for the past 27 years and currently serves in the role of Supervisor for the Juvenile Division of St. James Parish Sheriff's Office. Sonja and the rest of the St. James Parish Sheriff's Office juvenile detectives saw the value in the multi-disciplinary approach to investigating child abuse cases and began working with our Children's Advocacy Center in 2011.
Sonja always knew from a young age that she wanted to work with children. In high school, she contemplated becoming a teacher and even worked as a substitute teacher for a period of time. During this time is when she decided she wanted to serve her community in a different way and chose a career in law enforcement with the St. James Parish Sheriff's Office. Sonja believes a multi-disciplinary team approach is so valuable because it gives her the opportunity to recognize all aspects of the child's needs and understand the challenges they may be facing.
Sonja, thank you for all the hard work you do for the children of St. James Parish!
In July, the Children's Advocacy Center provided advocacy and forensic interviews to 57 children. In the River Region, 21 children and families were provided 29 hours of counseling.

Child Trafficking in our Community 

Exploitation through trafficking is a very real and traumatizing experience for many of the precious youth and children in our community!  My name is Kathy Cusimano, Prevention Coordinator and Child and Youth Trafficking Survivor Advocate. Since joining the amazing Child Advocacy Services family in January, I have had the privilege to work with many youth whose lives have been forever changed by sexual and labor exploitation! 

I have been blessed to work with many service providers to bring support and healing into the lives of our areas' identified youth.  The trauma these youth have faced impacts every aspect of their lives.  I am truly amazed by the resilience and strength these youth have displayed as they overcome the anguish and upheaval they suffered and are moving forward with their young lives.

Recognize, React, Report
A Community Resource for Protecting Children and Preventing Child Abuse
  Child Advocacy Services is proud to share the
Recognize, React, Report resource. This is a community resource for protecting children and preventing child abuse. This resource was originally designed because people often witness child abuse and neglect but do not understand their responsibility in reacting to the incident or making a report. Also, children themselves have a difficult time expressing concerns or understanding abuse. The interactive design makes this an excellent resource for adults and children to review together. This resource was recently updated to include information on keeping kids safe in a digital world as well as the 5 Steps to Protecting our Children from Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children.
We can offer a virtual or in-person presentation reviewing the resource to children or adults. The presentation can also be shared with teachers who would like to present this resource to their students. 

Click here to learn more about Recognize, React, Report and other prevention education resources offered by CAS.
  Contact our Prevention Services Coordinator for more information or to request copies of Recognize, React, Report:
Jordyn G'sell
(985) 785-5226 or
Each year, community professionals from many backgrounds come together to improve their leadership skills and give back to their local community through Leadership Ascension. This year, Team Ripple Effect selected Child Advocacy Services to be their beneficiary. With the help of Shell, BASF, Neighbors FCU, and Bourgeois Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab, Team Ripple Effect was able to make a generous donation to help train adults in the Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children prevention curriculum. Stewards of Children is the only evidence based prevention program that states for every 1 adult trained, 10 children are better protected from sexual abuse. For more information, please visit our website

Pictured left to right: Rob Carlisle - Child Advocacy Services, Mark Vincent - Rebel Graphix, Melissa Bourgeois - Bourgeois Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab, Morgan Nicolich - Shell,
Kayla Oubre - R.J. Daigle & Sons Contractors, Inc., Cassidy McFarland - Neighbors FCU, and Ashleigh Fuller - Child Advocacy Services

Members of Team Ripple Effect who are not pictured: 
Tony Tureau - Ascension Parish Sheriff's Department
LeJaune George Sr. - BASF
Renee Zimmerman - Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady of the Lake Health System

Thank you to Phi Mu at Southeastern for donating snacks & water for children visiting our CAC! 

We recently worked with Grass Master Maintenance and Landscaping, LLC to install landscaping at our new home in Hammond! Thank you so much to Grass Master for donating your time and talent and to Bracy's Nursery for the beautiful plants. Thanks to S&W Wholesale Foods, LLC., Mike & Emily Williams and Hammond Subway for providing food for our staff and volunteers! We appreciate all partners who helped make our beautification day possible.

Brave children tell their stories. Courageous adults help these children through their trauma and assist them in finding a safe future. Buttons of Bravery represent the journey of one child for a year under the care of Child Advocacy Services. 

Help hold them together through their experience by participating in the 
Buttons of Bravery Child Sponsorship Program. 

Thank you to our new and/or continuing Buttons of Bravery Child Sponsors. 

Gautreaux Construction Co., Inc.
Rob & Sally Carlisle *
David & Judith Landry *
Celeste Layrisson *
Lynette Martin
Rob & Tara Peltier *
CH Specialty *
Crossroads Behavioral Health, LLC *
Becky Powell *

* denotes a recurring monthly donor
Dear Community Supporter,

CAS served 557 children with 212 volunteers through our CASA program in 2019. Of those children, 205 were placed in safe and permanent homes. Additionally, we performed 662 forensic interviews and provided 663 hours of counseling to 116 children and families through our CAC program. 

Child Advocacy Services, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. We appreciate your consideration to start or renew your child sponsorship for 2020.  Please remember your contribution is tax-deductible.
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