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table of contents
A child who has been abused, neglected or survived other forms of childhood trauma is likely to be impacted physically, mentally, emotionally, academically and socially. These negative impacts can last a lifetime.
Children who have the support of a CASA volunteer are more likely to build resilience to counter those consequences. Having just one caring adult by their side can make all the difference in changing their outcomes.
Are you ready to change a child's story?
Become a CASA today.
4 Letter from the Executive Director
5 Celebrating 30 Years: The Courthouse
6 A Focus on Kinship
8 FY19 Annual Report
9 Volunteer Spotlight
10 Give Back at Work
11 Quarterbacks for CASA
12 Our Successes
13 What We're Loving
14 Inspiration for You
The Fairfax County Courthouse has been a central character in our 30 years of advocacy. And yes, "character" is an apt term, as our CASAs, staff, or anyone who has walked the halls of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC) will tell you. It has always been lively, it has always been bustling, and it has always been an institution ready to host those who positively impact the lives of children. CASA and the courthouse have come quite a long way together from the swearing in ceremonies in the historic courthouse; hosting 9 years of the Run for the Children on the front lawn, and now to the newly unveiled Kids' Bench - a child friendly reading area in the JDRDC lobby that not only serves to entertain children who are present for hearings, but also allows children to take home a book of their choosing. Donations of new and used books in excellent condition are being accepted to ensure that every child who is part of our court process leaves with the gift of reading.
celebrating our 30th year
Letter from the executive director
1989 to 2019 : The Courthouse
I would love to be able to say "happy fall," however that seems completely silly as it is 87 degrees as I type this letter and we are looking at temps climbing into the 90s this weekend. Summer needs to step down and let fall feel some love.
Speaking of love, please take a moment to read about the new Kids' Bench on page 5 of this newsletter. I was present for the ribbon cutting on the 24th, and it was a wonderful moment for our community and our court.
September is Kinship Care Awareness month, as mentioned in the article on page 6. I have had the pleasure of serving as the co-chair of the Kinship Family Advisory Council for the last year, a collaborative organization that is working diligently to raise awareness of kinship care and the complex needs and issues it presents. Stay tuned, as we are working on many exciting initiatives.
FY20 looks to be another busy year for Fairfax CASA. During the first quarter of the year, we have served 257 children, up 20% from last year on this day. We have opened 33 new cases during the quarter, a 37% increase over last year.
With this increase comes a waitlist. We have many children waiting for a CASA volunteer. We are always seeking out member of the community who are looking to make a difference in the life of a child. If you know of someone who has the time, passion and desire to become a CASA volunteer, please refer them to us! We are especially seeking Spanish speaking volunteers, as well as male volunteers.
Hopefully when I sit down to write the next newsletter, someone will have told Summer that she is overstaying her welcome...Until then, enjoy her!
A: How has Fairfax County expanded kinship care in the last few years, given it's importance to our community's children?
ME: When children must be separated from their parents, research has shown that living with other family members, or close family friends, is often the ideal solution. Kinship family arrangements can minimize trauma, improve behavioral and mental health outcomes and provide ongoing long-term relationships to siblings and caregivers to name a few benefits.
Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services established the Kinship Family Institute (KFI), opening its services to families in January of 2018. Kinship families are very different from foster families and have unique needs and challenges. The KFI was created solely to support kinship families, whether through connections to resources and services or through emotional support and peer to peer connection.
Interview with Mary Elizabeth Fleming, Support Group & Training Coordinator with Fairfax Department of Family Services by Ashleigh Conrad
a focus on kinship
A: What are the biggest challenges facing the kinship care community right now?
ME: Adding a kinship child or children to your household and life can come with lots of joys as well as challenges. It often happens suddenly, and with little to no preparation, the caregiver may feel overwhelmed and unsure how to best proceed. It may be an easy decision to welcome the child into your home, but questions remain. Is there enough room in the home? How do I find childcare or enroll the child in school? Do I need to cover the child on my health insurance? How is this going to affect my lifestyle, other family members in the home, my relationship with the parents? What if I need a break?
And one of the biggest questions is, can I afford this? There are limited financial resources available to support kinship caregivers, and they are often not aware of what is available or how to access it. Kids are expensive, whether it’s meeting their basic needs, providing for extra-curricular activities or providing additional services to meet special needs. Legal expenses can accumulate when trying to gain custody of the children, especially if the process is contentious. Without custody, caregivers are not authorized to seek medical care for the children and may face challenges enrolling them in the local school.
Here is more information if you would like to learn more about the KFI:
Navigation Line: 703-246-4KIN (4546)
Mary Elizabeth Fleming, Support Group and Training Coordinator: email@example.com or 703-246-4653
Find us on the web: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/familyservices/children-youth/kinship-family-institute
If you’re interested in volunteering and supporting kinship families at our events, contact Mary Elizabeth Fleming.
A: How can the general public best support kinship care families?
ME: Kinship caregivers can sometimes feel isolated, especially when their peers are not raising children. Parents often form informal social supports among other parents with children of the same age. These parents can include kinship caregivers in their circles of support, set up playdates with the kids, keep them up to date about “word of mouth” information. Offers to babysit might be welcome.
Often a traumatic or stressful situation may have led to the kinship care situation. Reserve judgment and remember that anyone can provide a listening and compassionate ear.
Kinship caregivers are resilient, strong and compassionate. You might be encouraged by their story.
September is Kinship Care Awareness Month and in reflection of this, Fairfax CASA spoke with one of the Kinship Care leaders from the Fairfax Department of Family Services to learn more about kinship care in our community.
Ashleigh: Can you briefly describe what kinship care is and why it is important to the children in our community who currently live in a kinship care situation?
Mary Elizabeth: Kinship care is often defined as the full-time care, nurturing and protection of children by relatives or close family friends (referred to as “fictive kin”). Frequently kinship caregivers are grandparents, but they can also be aunts, uncles, older siblings, godparents etc.
There are over 5000 children in Fairfax County being raised in kinship families, whether temporary or long term. Kinship families come about when the parents are not able to care for the child(ren) due to such reasons as substance misuse, death, military deployment, mental health issues, deportation, incarceration or abuse and neglect. Kinship families provide a form of stability, family connection and cultural identity that foster families cannot.
A: If a family is currently in a kinship care situation, where can they go to find resources that would help both the caregivers and the children in the family?
ME: The Kinship Family Institute!
Anyone can call our navigation line 703-246-4KIN (4546) and we can listen, talk through what the needs are and connect them to resources and services that exist within the county and community.
We also offer classes, seminars, trainings and support groups – all designed to meet the unique challenges kinship families face. Our topics vary from understanding the effect of trauma on children to substance misuse to parenting in the digital age. We are always looking for new topics, so kinship families have the tools and strategies they need to feel successful and supported.
Our programs naturally provide opportunities for caregivers to connect with one another and offer each other support.
Sometimes families just need a compassionate and understanding ear, one that understands the complexities of kinship families – we can do that too!
fy19 annual report
Ashleigh: How did you initially find your way to CASA?
Mari: I was watching the morning news and during the “Volunteer Monday” section, they highlighted a few selected organizations. I thought the report on CASA was compelling, so I wanted to learn more about the mission and type of work the organization focused on. As I started to do more research, I realized it was something I'd love to be apart of and decided to dedicate my time to the process - nearly eight years ago!
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
Fiscal Year 19 was another successful year for Fairfax CASA. Thank you to the many dedicated individuals who have made the last year, as well as the previous 29, possible. Since 1989, over 1,700 members of our community have become the voice for over 6,100 children who desperately needed a voice. Click below to view our annual report.
A: If you had the chance to talk with someone who was considering becoming a CASA, what would you tell them?
M: I hope you sign up! Becoming and volunteering as a CASA is not easy - the task is often emotional, but the chance to influence someone’s life will stay with you forever. It is a testament to the true impact of commitment and compassion.
CASA Volunteer, Mari Andrekovich at our annual Run for the Children
A: You have been a CASA for almost eight years. In that time you have adovcated for seven children from four different families - an immense committment for a CASA! What has kept you motivated in that time?
M: All of my case children were babies or toddlers. Simply, their smiles, hugs, and personalities make it all worth doing. It brings me joy and fulfillment to see them find happiness and security after troubled experiences. So while my part is temporary in their journeys, I really strive to have a permanent impact on each of their lives. Additionally, the support from supervisors and CASA office staff has been invaluable. I have relied on their guidance and positivity numerous times as cases become difficult.
A: How has being a CASA made a positive impact on your own life?
M: I have been given the opportunity to change the trajectory of a child's life, one of the most impactful things anyone could do. And it is a constant reminder of a child's vulnerability and the immense impact a single person or organization, like CASA, can truly achieve. So I hope to carry this lesson with me.
Mari Andrekovich is one-two punch: Not only is she an outstanding CASA, she's a ray of sunshine around our office! Her enthusiasm and smiles have lit up the CASA office for almost 8 years, and in that time she has positively impacted the lives of the 7 children she has served. Here's a little bit more about Mari!
A: What has been a memorable moment for you over the course of your CASA work?
M: There are so many, but what comes to mind immediately are the adoption ceremonies. They are always such special occasions for the children and their new families. Everyone is ready for the promise of a healthy new beginning. And again, the smiles - they reinforce the genuine excitement and happiness of the event, especially the child's.
From September 9th through January 12th, the Combined Federal Campaign enables our federal employees to give back to their favorite charities. Are you a federal worker or retiree? Show Some Love to Fairfax CASA this campaign.
CFC Designation #68151
We're drafting! Are you ready to be a first round pick for CASA?
Fairfax CASA is looking for committed individuals to train as CASA volunteers to champion a child who has been a victim of abuse or neglect. Right now, 54% of the children we are serving are male, while only 19% of our CASAs are men. Our children need advocates they can relate to and connect with. Is there a man in your life who would make a great CASA? We'd like you to save the date and bring him to our Quarterbacks for CASA Draft Party. Join us as we watch the Redskins take on the Packers and hear from some of our favorite guys about how you can have a positive impact on a vulnerable child's life. And, of course, female football fans are welcome!
Sunday, December 8th
Bar Snacks provided
Fairfax CASA is an official partner of the United Way of the National Capital Area. Click here to learn more about how YOU can start your very own workplace campaign benefiting Fairfax CASA.
United Way Designation #9201
We're looking for local businesses to partner with us for a special Giving Tuesday project! Do you or someone you know have a business that wants to positively engage employees and give back? Email our Events Coordinator, Ashleigh Conrad at firstname.lastname@example.org
quarterbacks for casa
give back to casa at work!
what we're loving
From Finance & Program Specialist Corrine Cavaliere, as well as several of our own CASAs, Unbelievable is the shocking true story of a former foster teen who reports her rape, only to recant it later. Meanwhile, states away, 2 detectives investigate the evidence that could lead to the truth. The limited series highlights the impact of early trauma and how the lack of connection to a stable family can affect a young person. The series is a Netflix exclusive.
Our volunteers drove 22,832 miles in furtherance of their duties
Through comprehensive court reports, 449 recommendations were made to the Court
From July 1st through now,* we've seen amazing accomplishments from our CASA volunteers. Thanks to their hard work, we've seen successful back to school transitions, families reunified, adoptions, and older youth successfully stepping out on their own as they explore young adulthood. Here just a few impressive statistics of what our 114 CASA volunteers have done so far this fiscal year for the children they serve.
*Data reflects the period of July 1, 2019 through September 26, 2019.
88% of those recommedantions were accepted and ordered by the Court
3,444 hours were worked by our CASAs to advocate for the children they serve
From Supervisor Tara Shimp, and recommended to her by one of her CASA volunteers, this University Business article discusses how universities and colleges are mitigating the challenges former foster children face when trying to attain higher levels of education. These programs are doing amazing work to help former foster children accomplish their academic goals - without having to sacrifice basic necessities. Our hope is to see similar programs on every campus across the country.
how we're doing in the 1st quarter of fy 20
81 hearings were attended by our volunteers
21 children's cases were closed
You never know who you are