table of contents
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4 Letter from the Executive Director
5 Our 2020 Initiatives
6 Our First Six Months of FY20
7 Thank you to our supporters!
8 Local CASA events this month
10 It's time for the 10th Annual Run for the Children!
12 Our Successes : Holiday Edition
13 What We're Loving
14 Volunteer Spotlight
16 Inspiration for You
Aaron was removed from his parents' care due to their struggles with substance abuse. Through counseling and classes, his parents have made positive strides and, thanks in part to the advocacy of his CASA volunteer Joan, Aaron was recently able to reunite with his parents. You can help children in our community just like Aaron by taking the first step to becoming a CASA volunteer - by attending an upcoming information session! Click below to see what date, time, and location work best for you and RSVP to claim your spot.
We are now in our 4th year of our work with youth 18-21, through the Fostering Futures legislation. This year, we hope to create a meaningful job readiness program for our young adults, train the CASA volunteers in areas that deeply impact older youth and create surveys for youth entering Fostering Futures as well as exiting.
Diversity and Inclusion Training
As you may know, we just celebrated our 30th year in operation. As we begin the next decade of CASA work, we continue to strive to ensure that our volunteers are receiving trainings with information that is not only relevant but helpful in the work that they are entrusted to do. The world we live in is ever changing, and we are living in an increasingly culturally diverse environment where we need to be able to interact, communicate, build relationships, and work effectively with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, as well as different sexual and gender orientations from our own. In 2020, we will provide volunteers with trainings that touch on these topics and provide information and resources that increase awareness and knowledge.
our 2020 initiatives
Letter from the executive director
Fairfax CASA remains committed to assigning a CASA volunteer to EVERY child referred by the Court. Unfortunately, we lack Spanish speaking volunteers and male volunteers. In 2020, we will diligently work on recruitment efforts to increase our bilingual volunteer base, as well as increasing the number of men who join our organization.
Happy New(ish) Year! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and that 2020 has been not only peaceful, thus far, but also full of joy and love, for each of you. Did you make any new year's resolutions? I did not this year....I never seem to keep them, and then I feel badly. Instead, I decided I would just try to be more healthy, overall. I am working on being positive in my thoughts and more clear with those important to me. As Brené Brown tells us, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind." So, for 2020, I am working on being clear with what I am thinking, what I am trying to convey and what I need.
Unbelievably, our tenth annual Run for the Children is just around the corner. As many of you are aware, this is our largest fundraiser and a truly fun-filled day for all who attend. The staff and volunteers are already working hard to ensure that this year's event is even MORE spectacular than our first nine...Please consider running, walking or volunteering! See page 10 of this newsletter for more information. You still have PLENTY of time to get ready to complete the race. I promise you won't regret being a part of this wonderful day...plus you get a really cool t-shirt AND lots of swag! If that doesn't entice you, I don't know what will!
This month, our Volunteer Spotlight focuses on Sandy Weinger (see page 14). Sandy is in her 27th year as a Fairfax CASA
volunteer. The magnitude of her commitment not only inspires me, but humbles me, greatly. What all of our volunteers do--what they commit to--takes perseverance and passion. We are in the middle of a new volunteer training class as I write this. We are grateful to those who take the time to learn about CASA, to apply and to go through our rigorous screening process. Add to that the 35+ hours of preservice training, the responsibilities that come with accepting a case and the 12 hours of continuing education--I think it is fair to say that the CASA volunteer role is unlike most volunteer positions. And the CASA volunteers are unlike most volunteers! It is a privilege and an honor to be among them.
OUR FIRST 6 MONTHS OF FY20
thank you to our supporters
Since July 1st, our CASA volunteers have gone above and beyond their oath of service in their advocacy for the children they have served during the first half of the fiscal year. These CASAs have visited with their children, called numerous professionals, and driven so many miles that they would have crisscrossed the United States over 25 times - all to ensure that the best interests of their CASA children were met. In the last six months, our CASAs were there for school meetings, court hearings, and holiday celebrations. Here are some statistics highlighting their dedication to their volunteer work, and most importantly, to the children on each of their cases.
61 children's cases were closed
16 individuals have either been sworn into CASA service or are currently completing training
Whether giving through our Giving Tuesday platform, donating online, or snail mailing a check, our monetary donors helped us surpass our end-of-year fundraising goal! By achieving this goal, Fairfax CASA is set for success in 2020. We are grateful for the support of our new donors and the continued support of our annual donors!
Gift Card Drives
Thanks to our local partners Gates Hudson, St. Mark's Catholic Church, the American String Teachers Association, Kappa Alpha Theta Alumnae of Northern Virginia and supporter Karen O'Gorman, over 135 gift cards were provided to our children to use this holiday season. Be sure to read how holiday wishes came true for some of our children on page 12!
Our volunteers drove 69,643 miles in furtherance of their duties
10,061 hours were worked by our CASAs to advocate for the children they serve
*Data reflects the period of July 1, 2019 through January 27, 2020.
3,210 visits with their children were completed by our volunteers
This year, CASAs Marjorie Polk and Marybeth Long went digital for Giving Tuesday by setting up unique fundraisers linked to their Facebook profiles. This social media sharing helped us reach our goal on Giving Tuesday and became a part of raising over $18,000 for our program. Thank you to everyone who donated through this modern method!
255 hearings were were attended by CASA volunteers
In December, our community came together for an outstanding show of support for our program, and most importantly, for the children we serve! Each and every one of our donors made an immense impact this year, no matter how large or small their gift. Because of their generosity, our work to ensure that every abused and neglected child has an advocate by their side continues. Here are some unique stories of how our donors warmed our hearts in December.
celebrate local. give back.
shop local. give back.
high side happy hour | Feb. 5th | 4-7pm
Grab some friends and grab a pint to benefit CASA! As a part of High Side's 2nd Anniversary Celebration, a happy hour benefitting Fairfax CASA will be held at their Chain Bridge Road location on Wednesday, February 5th from 4-7pm. Celebrate what has become a beloved Fairfax restaurant by enjoying your favorite craft beer, wine, or cocktail paired with High Side's delectable variety of Asian street food - all while giving back to Fairfax CASA, as a part of the proceeds from the event will be donated back to our program.
round your purchase up to the nearest dollar to help fairfax children in foster care
have a heart
for fairfax casa
When you round up your purchase at TWINS ACE HARDWARE IN FAIRFAX from February 3rd through February 16th to the nearest dollar, you help support the abused and neglected children in our community served by Fairfax Court Appointed Special Advocates. Fairfax CASA recruits and trains everyday citizens to be volunteer advocates for children in the court and foster care system. These dedicated individuals advocate for these vulnerable children's best interests and help them find a safe, loving, and permanent home. Thank you for supporting Fairfax CASA!
Click here to VOLUNTEER
It is impossible for us to have a successful race without community sponsors and donors. By partnering with us, you join a community of caring and generous people who prioritize the children of Fairfax County. Your sponsorship or donation is part of a collective impact that will continue to ensure that every abused child before the Court receives the benefit of a CASA volunteer and whose voice is heard. Hear from some of our past sponsors and donors below, and click here to have a larger impact on this year's event!
Click here to RUn or walk
donate or sponsor
10th annual run for the children
click here to get involved as a sponsor or donor!
A decade has passed since our supporters first took to the streets of Fairfax to run or walk for the abused and neglected children of our community. We are grateful for the support our participants and volunteers have shown to us over these last ten years.
Now, we look forard to celebrating year TEN with YOU!
Register today to run, walk, or volunteer and help us make our tenth year the best year yet.
From CASA Barbara:
My CASA girl is almost 12. She asked for a Target gift card because it’s her favorite store. She waited to be able to go shopping with me. She wanted a “jacket” aka a zip up sweatshirt. She saw exactly what she wanted and we tried two on until she felt comfortable. It was even on sale for $10! She also found some earphones and socks which she said she needed. I praised her for buying practical gifts and we used the self check and saw how much her presents added up to (good math practice!) amd with her extra Pringle’s and chips and tax she was $3 over the $25. But I chipped in! She was so grateful and very happy with her purchases. She just “loves” Target and even helped me pick out two birthday cards I needed. It was a very successful and a bonding experience for us!
what we're loving
This holiday season brought much joy to our hearts thanks to our generous community donors who held gift card drives to ensure that the holiday wishes of the children we serve came true! Thank you to our local partners Gates Hudson, St. Mark's Catholic Church, the American String Teachers Association, Kappa Alpha Theta Alumni of Northern Virginia and supporter Karen O'Gorman, for their contributions this past December. Here are a few stories of the holiday cheer they helped create.
Our Executive Director Darcy Cunningham recommends the gripping podcast, Hunting Warhead. This CBC production has been all the talk between child abuse prevention professionals. Hunting Warhead follows journalists and police on a global mission to expose the darkest corners of the internet. What they discover shocks them. Content Warning for child abuse and child sexual exploitation.
From CASA Marjorie:
In lieu of giving gift cards since my kids are young, I got gift cards and went shopping for them. It was so much fun. I arrived with a shopping bag filled with gifts on December 23rd. I handed each child their gifts. The sheer joy on their faces was beautiful as they unwrapped. Abby* was thrilled with her glue on nails, and Glam Nail stamper. I showed her how to use it and she proceeded to do her nails, and her little brother's! Sierra*, who is now 5, was overjoyed with a variety of Frozen gifts which included coloring books, stickers etc., as well as a bath bomb which I got both girls. Liam* loved his monster trucks and a Toy Story playset. They thanked me repeatedly. Abby ran upstairs and brought me a little bead on an elastic string. She wanted to give me a gift too. It was very sweet.
CASA Supervisor Dawnee Giammittorio's suggestion is one to put a smile on your face! She fell in love with the new adaptation of Little Women. In her words, "I loved the scene in 'Little Women' where the March family shared their Christmas breakfast with the young mother who was poor and had the sick children. That was so feel good and all about the reason for the season!" Check out your local cinema for showtimes.
our success : holiday edition!
From CASA Dennis:
The boys I serve on my case had never bought a Christmas present for Mom, and that's what they wanted to do with their gift card. They were excited. The boys said they knew Mom’s size, so they started by looking in the clothes section, but it was obvious choosing clothes was a more daunting task than they anticipated. So I suggested we walk around just to see what was in the store and maybe inspiration would strike. And then they saw the coffee makers; Mom’s had broken and she missed it. They finally settled on a Mr. Coffee 12 cup with a timer. We decided to go for a second gift, and by this time they were ranging throughout the store looking for the right thing. They settled on what to me looked like a lifetime supply of perfume, but they were very pleased and were sure Mom would gush over it. Then they attacked the toy aisle for a gift for their sister. Ultimately they chose a stuffed bear almost as big as her and some sort of small dollhouse toy – but it was the bear they were most pleased with.
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
Ashleigh: What has been your fondest memory during your time as a CASA?
Sandy: I would have to say there are many fond memories, and all during time spent with my CASA kids. Times when I played with the toddler whose head had been thrown against a wall, or fed the baby that was in foster care, or having dinner and then shopping with my three teenage CASA girls, or being invited to aquinceañera party for one CASA child who was turning 15, and having a heart-to-heart with a father who refused to take any part in his child’s abuse and then being told he called the social worker the very next day to accept responsibility. There are many more.
Ashleigh: What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer?
Sandy: Its not an easy volunteer work. You will see and hear some very difficult things but if you can help to break the cycle of abuse with just one child, you can help prevent generations of children to come from being abused. You will need to take time to visit with your child, sometimes that means weekends or holidays, and lots of phone calls with the other professionals on the case. Generally, most of the people on the case genuinely want to help so you will be part of a team of professionals with the goal of helping your child have a better chance at life. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done, and I hope to return to do more.
Ashleigh: What motivated you to become a CASA 27 years ago?
Sandy: I was actually motivated to become a CASA volunteer before that when I first saw an announcement seeking volunteers. However, at that time, my two older sons were still toddlers and I didn’t think it was the right time. When my youngest child was born, I decided it was now or never. So basically, my daughter is as old as I have been a CASA. The prime motivation to do this work is deeply personal. I experienced abuse when I was a young girl. It didn’t last long but it was enough of a stain that all I wanted was to keep it to myself and never speak about it. However, it was something I carried with me into adulthood and when I had my own children, I decided to do something, to give someone the voice I never had.
Sandy Weinger accepting her May Cook Heart of Gold Award in 2013
In this edition, we are so elated to highlight our longest serving CASA volunteer, Sandy Weinger. Sandy has been a CASA for over 26 years, serving 39 children who have benefitted from her tenacity, compassion, and love. This year, Sandy's CASA service will come to a close as she embarks on a new adventure with a professional move overseas. Although Sandy is entering CASA retirement right now, she promises she'll be back at her advocacy work when she returns to the United States.
Ashleigh: How do you feel that you've had a positive impact on the lives of the 39 children you have served?
Sandy: I’ve watched each one of them go from terrible situations to more safe, stable and nurturing environments. The key to any impact I might have had on the lives of the children I worked with lies in getting to know them well enough to be able to speak for them. Being their voice when talking to their teachers, therapists, foster parents, social workers, and GALs is a journey each CASA takes to eventually help deliver them to a better place than when you found them.
Ashleigh: What advice would you give to a CASA volunteer going through a challeging time in their advocacy work?
Sandy: To always remember that you are a professional who brings a unique perspective from your own experiences, upbringing and culture. Your opinion, based on the facts and what you have seen and heard, is very important to the judge. Being an unpaid volunteer also gives you the freedom to speak the truth without any other motivation than the one you came into CASA with; that is to speak up for a child in need, to be a friend, and to be their number one fan.
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson