April Volunteers of the Month

April VolunteersMary and Miranda are a mother-daughter teams that went thru training together and are working the same case.  They heard about CASA from another advocate and were determined to help children in need. “I have a passion to help children, and it feels like if you can change direction at an early age they would be successful as an adult,” Sellars stated. When asked hat surprised here about CASA work Erickson responded “I was surprised at how this work has softened my heart towards the parents going through this.  I knew I would love the kids and be cheering them on, but I’ve always been a little harsh on adults. I realized without knowing their background story, it is not fair to judge them just by what you see on the surface. “

 

Their first case involved 7 siblings who all experienced some type of trauma. “It was a very complicated case, but rewarding and the kids were so sweet,” stated Sellars. They have since worked on two additional cases and continue to be a strong voice for children in foster care.

 

When asked what the best thing about being a CASA is Erickson said “My favorite thing is how much I’ve learned. It changes your heart and makes you look at life and people in a different light. It is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.  They both encouraged others to look into becoming a CASA advocate and being someone a child in foster care can trust to help them out.

February Volunteer of the Month – Kassie Haynes

Kassie HaynesThe Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Kassie Haynes as the Volunteer of the Month for January.  Kassie has served as a CASA volunteer since August 2017. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

“I love working with children and have a special place in my heart for kids in foster care. I know how over-burdened our entire system is and being a CASA volunteer is one way that I can help out”, Haynes said when asked why she volunteers. She added “I believe the experiences we have as children affect us the rest of our lives, so even though I cannot prevent terrible things to happening, I can advocate for their best interest and use my skills to make sure they are on the right track.”

Kassie says she has known about CASA since she was a counselor at a middle school.  A CASA volunteer came to her meet with her about one of her students.  “I was amazed that there were people who volunteered to be another set of eyes and ears on a DCFS case and helped guide these children through a very difficult time in their lives”, stated Haynes.  When she moved back to Northeast Arkansas she kept hearing advertisements about the need for CASA volunteers, but never felt like the time was right. Eventually, a co-worker who had worked for CASA before talked her into signing up and she did. Kassie says she has learned alot in working as a CASA and her first case has a very happy ending pending and she is excited about the upcoming adoption day!

Kassie is married to Tom Haynes and they have two beautiful daughters. She works for Arkansas PROMISE, where she works with teenagers with disabilities to help them transition from high school to career.

January Volunteer of the Month – Aaron Baldridge

Aaron BaldridgeThe Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Aaron Baldridge as the Volunteer of the Month for January.  Baldridge has served as a CASA volunteer since February 2017. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

 

“My niece and nephew were adopted through foster care and I saw a need for people to help these children”, said Baldridge when asked why he became a CASA. He said he heard about CASA on a news story and called the next day to become an advocate. “I enjoy seeing all of the positive changes in the lives of children I work with and spending time with them is so much fun”, he added.

 

Aaron is currently assigned to two cases in Poinsett County.  Baldridge’s Advocate Coordinator, Michael Graham states “Aaron has evolved with the cases he has been assigned to. He has no problems working through hurdles that arise in his case work and failure is not an option for him.”

 

When asked why others should become a CASA Baldridge said “because you can make a difference”.  The work you do is time-flexible and can fit into any schedule and it is by far the most rewarding work I have ever done.”

November Volunteer of the Month – Marie Taggart

Marie and EvanThe Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Marie Taggart of Manilla as its Volunteer of the Month for November 2017.  Taggart has served as a CASA volunteer since July 2017. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

 

“I first heard of CASA from a friend of mine who works for DHS. She mentioned the hardships these families face in the court system.  I asked what I could do to help and that is when she directed me to CASA,” said Taggart.  She then added “I reached out, applied and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

 

Taggart says she loves getting to visit with children and working to make sure they have what they need in their lives.  “I love kids and I love to see them happy,” stated Taggart.

 

She is currently advocating on behalf of 7 children in 3 separate cases. Marie is always first to step-up and help CASA out no matter what is needed.  Taggart’s Advocate Coordinator, Evan Clower states “Marie has gone above and beyond. She is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best voice for children in her cases and her passion is unmatched and inspiring to everyone in our organization.”

 

When asked why others should become a CASA Taggart said “It’s simple, the children are our future and being an advocate and part of their lives is so rewarding.”  “Twelve hours per month is not a whole lot to ask from any of us and that is all the time it takes to give a disadvantaged child a voice,” said Taggart

October Volunteer of the Month – Natalie Jarrett

Natalie Jarrett- October 2017The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Natalie Jarrett as its Volunteer of the Month for October 2017.  Jarrett has served as a CASA volunteer since March 2017. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

 

“I first heard about CASA when a staff member spoke to one of my Social Work classes about the need for CASA volunteers and the impact a CASA volunteer has on a child’s life. I had already been looking for a place to volunteer with and I knew this would be a great fit since I am passionate about working with children and had plans to adopt one day,” said Jarrett

 

Natalie’s first case was a sibling set of 5 in Poinsett County. “This case was very interesting. The one thing I really enjoyed about it was how the parents were 100% honest with me from the moment I met them. The parents did what was asked of them and the children were able to be reunified with the parents. This was a great case to get my feet in the water,” said Jarrett.

 

Jarrett’s Advocate Coordinator, Michael Graham, nominated Jarett for Volunteer of the Month for October. “It was an easy choice for me. Natalie exemplifies the CASA experience with her attitude, enthusiasm, and volunteerism work ethic. She approached her first case with the dedication and drive of a seasoned pro. She is so special and anyone that has been around her recognizes this right away,” stated Graham.

 

What surprised Jarrett the most about her CASA Volunteer work was seeing the amount of children who benefitted from having a CASA volunteer and then the overwhelming need for more CASA volunteers. “I didn’t realize how many children were in the foster care system. We definitely need more CASA volunteers so they can build that strong relationship with the child and be able to advocate for their best interest,” added Jarrett.

 

Jarrett’s favorite thing about her CASA experience was the many doors that it opened for her to meet other people who want to make a difference in the lives of children. “My Advocate Coordinator was so helpful. I have enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers and the staff and attend the volunteer appreciation events. The training I got was great and prepared me well to take on my first case,” said Jarrett.

 

Jarett is from Harrisburg, Arkansas and is married with two children. She is in the process of completing her Social Work degree at Arkansas State University.

September Volunteer of the Month – Tad Margolis

Tad Margolis September 2017The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Dr. Tad Margolis as its Volunteer of the Month for September 2017.  Margolis has served as a CASA volunteer since December 2016. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

 

“I was serving on the Craighead Community Foundation when I heard how CASA was looking to start a program with a focus on teenagers. This sparked my interest in wanting to become a CASA Volunteer because I love working with children and enjoy volunteering,” said Margolis.

 

Margolis picked up two cases the day she got sworn in as a CASA Volunteer. “They were a set of six siblings and all were attending the same school district at the time. Unfortunately, now they are all spread throughout the state. I have been working closely with the Attorney Ad-Litem and other resources to make sure they kids have all the things they need in their current placement,” Margolis added.

“The dedication Tad has shown to the kids in her cases is inspiring to me. She goes above and beyond to ensure the best interest of the child is known by court personnel. She focuses on the most pressing needs of the children and they all know that they truly have a friend in Tad,” stated Executive Director, Jeremy Biggs.

 

“I feel like I am making a difference. The kids love me and although there have been many changes throughout their time in foster care, I have been that constant for them, said Margolis. “I love going to their school and having lunch with them. I love that they include me in life events, birthday parties, dance recitals, and more.”

 

Not only does Margolis spend some of her free time with CASA, she is also married to Dr. Margolis and they have a 13 year old son. She was elected to be one of the AR State School Board Regional Directors. She has had much experience volunteering in her community with Junior Auxiliary, Humane Society, Church Health Center, and the Parent Teacher Association.

CASA Seeks Advocate Coordinator

CASA of the 2nd Judicial District is seeking applicants for an Advocate Coordinator position. This position is full-time. The Advocate Coordinator is responsible for recruiting, training, coaching and building strong relationships with volunteers who serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA’s) for children in the foster care system. Bachelor’s degree in social sciences, marketing, public relations or related field, or equivalent work experience with case management, human resource management and/or volunteer management experience preferred.  Previous experience with CASA preferred. Position will be based in Jonesboro. Some travel involved. Must undergo criminal background and child abuse central registry check.  Please mail cover letter and resume to CASA Search Committee, 311 South Church Street, Ste. G, Jonesboro, AR 72401.  You may also email cover letter and resume to jeremy.biggs@neacasa.org.

August Volunteer of the Month – Patty Harris

Patty HarrisThe Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Patty Harris as its Volunteer of the Month for August 2017.  Harris has served as a CASA volunteer since June 2016. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  The CASA information is provided to a judge who makes the decision whether appropriate steps have been taken to return the children to the home or to find them new, safe and permanent homes.

 

“My husband actually introduced me to CASA. After being foster parents for 15 years, we wanted to help the children in foster care in a different way and my husband learned about CASA’s mission. We love children and want to see them in a loving family so we decided to become volunteers together so we could share in the experience,” Harris said.

 

“Patty is now working her second case since she became a volunteer. She did so well advocating for a permanent and safe place for the child in her first case. She built strong relationships with everyone in the case in order to make sure the baby’s needs were being met. She was met with some challenges in the case as all will experience but she overcame them with grace and always had the best interest of the child in mind. I asked her if she would take another case once her case closed and she did. She now is advocating for five siblings,” stated Program Manager, Megan Mitchell Brown.

 

When asked what surprised them the most about her volunteer experience with CASA, Harris stated, “nothing really. I have seen a lot with being a foster parent in the past. There were things that were frustrating in working my case, but that is normal. I kept my focus on the child and knew that I was doing the best that I could as her advocate.”

 

When Patty is not volunteering, you can find her spending time with her husband, Danny, of 40 years, taking care of her grandson, and taking taekwondo.

July Volunteer of the Month – Marilynn Brasher

July VolunteerCourt Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Second Judicial District has selected Marilynn Brasher as the Volunteer of the Month for July.  Brasher, who is from Paragould, has been a volunteer since March 2016. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.  Brasher states, “being a CASA volunteer is hard, it’s frustrating, it’s rewarding and most of all, being a CASA volunteer is one of the BEST things I’ve ever done in my life”.

 

Amanda Frankenberger, Brasher’s Coordinator, says “Marilynn has the biggest heart and she has worked extremely hard this summer on behalf of a large sibling group in her case”. Without volunteers like Marilynn, CASA would not exist. “CASA is essential for children in foster care. It’s the perfect fit for me and has granted me an opportunity to give back to the community – to be a Voice for the Child. Most importantly, CASA always strives to keep what is in the best interest of the child”, Brasher added.

 

CASA appreciates the work Marilynn has accomplished and the many benefits it has brought children in foster care. If you are interested in becoming a child advocate please contact CASA at 870-935-1099 or visit them online at www.neacasa.org.

June Volunteer of the Month – Shannon Horton

unnamedThe Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program of the Second Judicial District has selected Shannon Horton as its Volunteer of the Month for May 2017.  Horton has served as a CASA volunteer since January 2017. Volunteers serve as sworn officers of the court, and help to investigate and gather information on cases when children are removed from a home due to abuse or neglect.

 

“I had been thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer for years, but I wanted to wait until my child was older, so I would have more time to invest. I knew this year was the perfect timing for me, mentally and situationally. I am passionate about working with children and wanted to be a voice for a child,” Horton said.

 

Jerri Mae Willis, Horton’s Advocate Coordinator said Horton worked hard to get a sibling group placed with a grandmother out of state. “That took calling the ICPC people in the grandmother’s state and in Little Rock and staying on top of it. Instead of it taking six months for this process, she and the DHS Program Assistant got this done in two short months; she called and emailed both states until they made it happen!”

 

When asked what surprised her most about her volunteer experience with CASA, Horton states, “It has actually surprised me how much the skills I use at work are being used here in my volunteer work: the researching, the investigating, the need to stay organized and on top of things.” Horton added, “It is such a cool feeling to see the hard work you put in advocating for these children. To see them taken care of, to see them happy; it feels like something I have never felt before. It is indescribable. They slowly just become your children and that’s my job, to do everything I can to protect these children.”

Horton is from Jonesboro, Arkansas. She enjoys hanging out with her husband and son when she is not volunteering with CASA.