January 20, 2015
The Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA) is in the initial planning phase to consider purchasing, building, or renovating a newer, larger facility here in Conway to assist with our expanding programs and services. Our program has grown from operating with a $70,000 budget in 2001 to needing over $545,000 to currently meet the needs of abused and/or neglected children in our community.
Our Board of Directors and staff are now reviewing the opportunities with regard to the financing of this endeavor. The board is considering a comprehensive campaign to develop the necessary funding for our project.
As its first step in this process, CAA has secured the services of Hueston Consulting Group, LLC (a Arkansas-based consulting firm) to conduct a confidential feasibility study on its behalf. We request your participation in this study by taking a few minutes to complete the survey by clicking on this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CAA_Study
Dr. Fred Hueston, CFRE, our campaign consultant, will compile the responses, keeping your individual survey in confidence, and report the findings back to us in April.
Your ideas and suggestions are valuable to us. Thank you for your participation in this study. Your input will help us compile the information we need in order to make informed, accurate decisions about how best to proceed with this important project here in our great community!
Hueston Consulting Group of Conway, Arkansas, a philanthropic consulting firm, will assist us in this feasibility study. Your evaluations and judgments will advance this process. We seek your input so we make the best decisions possible to ensure the long-term sustainability of our program which benefits the entire community.
CAA treasures your advice and counsel. Hueston Consulting Group will keep your responses confidential. Thank you for your anticipated participation in our research, as we believe your partnership with us will address a long-term solution to the physical space limitations we currently face.
Tess Fletcher, Executive Director
Imagine being a 12 year old girl. Now imagine that someone you know and love has been raping you for the last 7 years. Someone who is supposed to protect you is forcing you to do things that no child should have to do. You can’t tell because you were told the cops would take you away from your mom and siblings. At school, your teacher notices you are going to the bathroom a lot and takes you aside after school to talk to you. You can’t take it anymore and break down and tell her what has been happening. The teacher calls the hotline and your entire life changes.
An investigator with the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children division is assigned to investigate the allegations. They schedule an interview at the Children’s Advocacy Center where you are greeted by a Family Advocate who helps explain the process to your mom. You are interviewed by a Forensic Interviewer who is specially trained to interview child victims. You have a medical exam the same day as your interview, in the same child friendly location. Your Family Advocates makes sure you have access to mental health services. You have a team of people working together to make sure you are safe and are able to start healing from the trauma you’ve experienced for the last 7 years.
The story could end there, but let’s imagine that your mom chooses to believe the alleged offender and decides she will not keep you from seeing him. DHS determines that your mom won’t keep you safe and takes you and your siblings into custody. There isn’t a home that can take all of you together, so you have to be separated from your siblings. After a probable cause hearing in dependency/neglect court, you are assigned a court appointed special advocate (CASA). Your CASA meets with you regularly to ensure your needs are being met and help determine what is in your best interest. They report to the Judge at each court hearing. They ensure you are able to visit regularly with your siblings. Your mom is given a year to remedy the cause of removal and she is ordered to attend therapy and parenting classes. Your advocate meets with your mom to encourage her to follow court orders. At close to one year, you are able to return home and are reunited with your mom and your siblings.
Stories like this should not happen but the reality is that they happen every day in our community. In 2014 alone, 265 children were interviewed at the advocacy center due to allegations of physical or sexual abuse. The CASA program was assigned to over 150 children. Sadly, those are not all of the children that needed our help.
Originally founded in 2000 as Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District (CASA 20th), the Children’s Advocacy Alliance oversees two programs that serve abused and neglected children in a five county service area. The Central Arkansas Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) coordinates investigative and treatment efforts involving law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, medical and mental health services. These services are coordinated through a community-based facility to protect children from further trauma and to provide them with a foundation for healing from their abuse. The Central Arkansas CAC serves Faulkner, Van Buren, Searcy, Conway and Pope Counties.
The CASA 20th program recruits and trains community volunteers to stand up for abused and neglected children, represent their best interests in court, and help them find safe, permanent homes. The CASA 20th program serves Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy Counties.
Need for Change:
The agency currently occupies two suites of a multi-office building in downtown Conway. The suites are not side by side and staff is separated, as are services and supplies. The agency needs a larger facility with confidential space for children and families undergoing the process of care.
The Children’s Advocacy Alliance envisions a 15,000 sq. ft. facility centrally located in Conway, AR that will have the capacity to fully serve every child that needs our services. The facility would house a services building for the advocacy center with enough extra rooms to alleviate confidentiality concerns, an administration building that brings all staff and partner agencies together, as well as a conference/training area that will be able to seat 200 people. Currently, we have to have all trainings, group meetings and other functions at different facilities around town, depending upon their room availability.
PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY FOR OUR FEASIBILITY STUDY:
In the month of September, the Children’s Advocacy Alliance wants to express our gratitude to the many volunteers who align themselves with our organization! As a nonprofit agency, we could not survive without the dedication of our volunteers and their tireless efforts. We have several sets of volunteers that help keep our programs and services to abused and neglected children going in the communities we serve. Board members, CASA volunteers, Friends and others who invest their time and talents helping our agency are so vital to provide hope and healing to the abused and neglected children we serve. While often words are not enough to show the depth of our appreciation, we do want to share a few words to say “Thank You” for all you do!
Our Board is comprised of 13 men and women from our community who have committed themselves to oversee the entire spectrum of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA). They adopt and implement the policies and procedures that define our agency. We are two programs working hand in hand to provide comprehensive services for the investigation, treatment, support and permanent placement of child victims of abuse and neglect within a five-county region. The Board oversees the overall operations of the CAA and is committed to do whatever it takes to generate the needed funds to not only meet the needs of those who benefit from our services, but to exceed in all manners possible. The Board members attend trainings throughout the year in order to stay on top of changing laws and practices within our culture. We are very grateful to each Board Member who does their part to spread our mission within our five county service area.
The heart and soul of the CASA 20th Judicial District is our volunteer advocates! Our CASA program services the foster children in Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties. An advocate begins their relationship with the CAA by first going through an extensive interview process, background checks and upon approval, complete of at least 30 hours of training. Once an individual invests that amount of time, they are excited to meet their first foster child who needs their voice in court. The level of commitment from these volunteers is amazing. They begin this journey oftentimes without realizing how passionate they will become in their diligent work for these children. The world is definitely a better place because of the sacrifices made by these advocates to meet the needs of the children they represent. We are always recruiting new advocates and encourage anyone with a passion for helping foster children to contact our office for more information. A very special thank you to these selfless advocates who help provide for the needs of our children.
Another very important group of volunteers are our Friends who began as “Friends of CASA” by organizing the Festival of Chairs as a fundraiser and to build awareness of the work of CASA 20th Judicial District. This group of dedicated women have single handedly grown the Festival of Chairs to become one of the largest events in the Conway area. The Festival of Chairs event provides the funding for 20% of our annual budget. The exposure these ladies have created in our community is phenomenal. We are so grateful for their tireless commitment to raising money for the CAA and for sharing our mission across the area.
We have other volunteers who support our agency with their time, talents and monetary support. The CAA relies upon the generosity of community individuals, businesses and corporations to help make our vision a reality in the lives of children and families. There is no way to begin listing the names of this vast group of volunteers, but our hearts are continually warmed by their willingness to donate their skills, abilities and resources to the success of the CAA. For each of you who are often our “unsung heroes” please know that we recognize your gifts and know your make us stronger by sharing with us.
Volunteers are such a vital part of any organization. The Children’s Advocacy Alliance is no exception. We always have an open door for our volunteers as well as for anyone who desires to come along beside us to provide hope and justice for abused and neglected children. Our staff could not complete the job alone. All kind deeds meet real needs. Thank you again for your service, dedication, commitment and heart for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance.
Most of us want to do our part in making our corner of the world a better place. The stumbling block for many of us is in identifying a method to accomplish this goal. The most effective way to brighten our neighborhood is to use our life passion as a portal. We are looking for men and women who are passionate about helping children become successful in their lives. CASA 20th Judicial District serves abused and neglected children in Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties. These children need someone to advocate for them, to be their voice in court. They need you!
What is involved?
… Your time. We need you to commit a year of your life to a child or sibling set. You will be completely trained and sworn in as an officer of the court. You will receive constant support from our CASA supervisors. You will visit your child at least once per month. You will go to court as required. You will have some paperwork to complete for the agency and the court. On an average, you will need 8-12 hours per month to make a difference in the life of a child.
… Your concern. Your desire to help a child receive the help of the legal system will assist them to overcome barriers in their lives. Many of these children are changed forever because someone like you cares enough to provide the support they need. You will develop a genuine relationship with the child.
Volunteer training begins in October! What word sticks out as you read this article? YOU! We need YOU! There are currently no volunteers from Searcy county and only a few from Van Buren county. The need in Faulkner county continues to grow. For more specific information, please read our page on Becoming a CASA Advocate.
Extraordinary Service as CASA Advocate Celebrates 11 years
The Court Appointed Special Advocates of the 20th Judicial District (CASA 20th) have many community volunteers who do outstanding work each and every day to give a voice to the most vulnerable children in our community. Today however, they are recognizing a volunteer advocate who has served the organization and community for 11 years!
Pam Loyd first became a CASA advocate after reading an article in the Log Cabin Democrat about the CASA program. “It broke my heart to think that innocent children could be abused and neglected. I believe that every child deserves to grow up safe, secure and happy. With our own family grown and less demands on my time, I felt the need to become an advocate for children.” After completing the 30 hour training program Pam began serving on her first case.
What followed was an incredible 11 years of service. During this time Pam has served on 15 different cases and been a voice for 30 abused and neglected children. When asked about the most memorable moment Pam thinks for a while and then talks about a case that was open for many years. “Everyone thought these girls would end up in foster care until they turned 18. But then all of a sudden their mother got serious about getting help and really turned things around and the girls we reunited. I never thought it would be possible, but they are so happy and safe.”
Today Pam is still serving on cases and being a voice for the abused end neglected children in our community. She is an incredible mentor for new advocates and is truly making a difference in our community. When asked why she continues to serve she says “because, unfortunately, the need is still there. Whenever a child is being abused or neglected they need somebody to stand up and care. I feel that I am a very small part of the process. Working with the court system from the caseworkers and attorneys to the judges has been an enlightening experience. Each of these individuals cares deeply and works so hard for the welfare of the children. At times these cases can become extremely emotional. It is rewarding to see a case close with children placed in a safe permanent home. Some biological parents turn their lives around and show the ability and willingness to put their children first. In other cases I have witnessed relatives and adoptive parents step up to provide children a forever family. My supervisors are always there to listen, advise and encourage. The CASA staff and fellow volunteers are an awesome extended family that I am proud to be part of.”
To learn more about the CASA 20th program and how you can become an advocate contact the Children’s Advocacy Alliance at 501.328.3347 or visit www.hopeandjustice.org.
This past month the CASA 20th staff celebrated with two teenagers and their new forever family.
This story really began when these children were born. Bounced around between family members and used as bait by their parents to steal drug money, Daniel and Laura had already been in and out of the foster care system twice. The system was failing them. It was in 2009, when Daniel (then 10) and Laura (then 9), were taken into foster care for the third time that something different happened. They were given a CASA 20th advocate.
The CASA 20th advocate, with 8 years experience, recalls meeting them for the first time, “Daniel was angry at world, and rightfully so. He had been used and abandoned by every adult in his life. Laura was trying desperately to take care of him and control his outbursts in the hope they wouldn’t get kicked out of yet another home.” For another two years the kids would continue to be bounced from home to home waiting for a family to adopt them. Caught in a vicious cycle filled with anger, distrust and disappointment the only stabilizing factor in these kids’ lives was their CASA 20th Advocate. Eventually Daniel was placed into a residential treatment center. This was key to giving him a stable living environment so they could begin to address his separation anxiety and behavioral issues.
Daniel began asking his CASA Advocate when a family would want him. After two years Daniel was finally able to trust an adult and voice his biggest fear. The person he trusted was his CASA 20th Advocate. As Daniel left the treatment facility he was placed with the Smith family. They had seen a profile piece on Daniel and become foster parents specifically so they could bring him into their home with a plan to adopt him.
During this time Laura had been placed with a foster family and without the pressure to be a caregiver for her brother was beginning to blossom. She had also become adamant about not being adopted with her brother. She was scared he would act out again and her chances at a forever family would be gone. The CASA Advocate, recognizing that in the long term an adoption together would be best in ensuring their relationship is maintained (if they were adopted separately there is no guarantee of visitation), convinced Laura to spend one weekend a month visiting with her brother.
The first few visits were hard, afraid of having her heart broken again, Laura was determined to not like it there. After a few months however, Laura began to feel at peace in the Smith family home. She began to realized that the Smith family had picked Daniel knowing all of his background and then learning that he had a sister were also willing to adopt her. The fact that they picked him first let her trust that this time she could be a sister and not a care giver.
Last month the CASA Advocate watched beaming as Daniel and Laura were officially adopted by the Smith family. These kids needed someone to be there for them consistently and unconditionally. Their CASA 20th Advocate gave them that and although it took four years they are finally thriving. Together. Forever.
Two years ago I was lucky enough to become involved in an amazing volunteer program, CASA 20th. Shortly after being sworn in as a CASA 20th advocate I got my first case, a 14 year old girl in foster care for the third time. Sophie had so much working against her and sadly many had already given up on her. I reviewed years of family history, medical records, DHS reports and any other document that could give me insight and help me connect with Sophie. With everything she had been through I knew it would not be an easy task to gain her trust. She had been let down time and time again by her parents, friends, “the system”, basically everyone she had ever counted on. She fully expected that I would be like everyone else and disappear after a few months. I knew if I was going to help Sophie, I must prove to her not only that I was here to stay, but that I was 100% devoted to her best interest and earn her trust.
She was placed four hours away which made visits difficult but I made the drive at least once a month, demonstrating to Sophie how devoted I was to her case. Because she was so far away, regular, almost daily phone calls were also essential to building a relationship with her. Sophie recognized these small gestures of caring and it didn’t take long before she began opening up to me and I could see the smart, generous, caring girl under the mask of toughness she wore.
In the two years I’ve been Sophie’s CASA advocate she has been through 5 placements, 5 caseworkers and 2 judges leaving few people to provide a stable and consistent support system. I’ve watched her persevere through the many ups and downs of growing up in the foster care system with minimal family support, through having her parents in prison, through social anxiety and struggles with her education due to her history and learning disorders. At age 17 Sophie was at a tenth grade level and not progressing towards graduation. I began searching for an appropriate GED program near her placement. I found a program that also offered a smaller classroom setting as well as behavioral and counseling services and she was eventually enrolled. Finally in an appropriate classroom setting for her, Sophie flourished impressing and inspiring her fellow classmates and teachers.
Other than her mother, most of Sophie’s family lived out of state, leaving little chance of a relative placement or support system. However, Sophie did have a “father-figure” she had known for years and who was willing to help her in any way he could. He and I worked together to provide a healthy and consistent support system she so desperately needed. With these positive influences in her life, Sophie began showing her true potential. Despite all the hardships she had faced in foster care, when Sophie turned 18 she opted to remain in care and take advantage of all the opportunities available to her, first and foremost her education. Sophie earned her GED and I began working diligently to guide her through the college admission process and keep her motivated. I made appointment for her, attended the appointments with her and assisted her with all necessary paperwork and applications.
Today, the rebellious teenager I met just two short years ago is in a healthy and loving long-term placement, has learned to set boundaries with her parents to maintain a healthy relationship with them and is enrolled as a full-time college student. I have witnessed Sophie’s journey as she transformed from a struggling girl to a responsible young adult, still learning and growing, inspiring everyone she meets along the way as she overcomes barriers most of us could not imagine. I feel so blessed to have been a part of her journey….and it’s only just the beginning.
This story was shared with our staff and it immediately reminded us why our Kidsfest Superhero Race on April 6th is so important….It’s not just about raising funds, it’s about getting out there and doing something that changes a child’s life.
“Let’s put your sneakers on.” The cutest little boy was playing with a train set at the Center. He had one sneaker tied and the other kicked onto the floor. As a volunteer, I had no idea what crisis he had been removed from but it was my job to make sure he was safe, distracted by toys before his forensic interview and kept comfortable in the bright, friendly playroom.
“Here, Jason, I’ll help you put this on.” As I attempted to gently wedge the tennis shoe onto his squirming little foot, Jason started to cry. “Does your foot hurt?” He pulled the back of his sock down to reveal blisters. I realized his shoes had been rubbing against his heel and ankle. “Oh, you poor little guy, looks like these shoes are too tight.”
I wiped his tears and gave him a hug. Jason didn’t speak. He looked down at the floor. “Hey, it’s OK, Buddy. Look! I’m kicking off my shoe too!” Jason smiled a little. He touched his tender heel and brought his fingers to his lips, then moved his hand back and forth as if pantomiming someone smoking a cigarette and bringing that cigarette to his heel. I realized Jason’s shoes were not too tight and his injuries were no accident.
One of the professionals confirmed that the “blisters” on Jason’s feet were consistent with the look of cigarette burns and his abuser had carefully masked the cruel acts in such a way that a child who was barely verbal would have difficulty explaining. As an expert in the field, she had seen such things before.
Because of the alert staff at the Center, Jason did not have to go home to his abuser and today he can run, jump and play in his comfy sneakers.
When you take part in the Kidsfest Superhero Race, you run or walk for a child like Jason who was not able to lace up his sneakers and enjoy being a regular kid because someone hurt him. Your small steps represent his healing, your great strides represent his emotional recovery and that exhilarating moment when you hit your perfect pace represents the joyful future children like Jason deserve.
Jane is 9 years old and lives in Conway. Her only Christmas wish this year is simple….she wants a home with a family who will love her and keep her safe.
By making a year end donation to the Children’s Advocacy Alliance you can help ensure that Jane, and the 178 other Faulkner County children in foster care, can wake up next Christmas morning in a safe and permanent home.
Cordell was taken into foster care at the age of 10. Still a little boy in many ways, but one who had already seen and suffered so much. The courts quickly determined that termination of parental rights was in the best interest of Cordell and his 7 younger siblings. Although Cordell was now safe, he was missing what every little boy needs most; a stable family that could support him and inspire him to believe he could be anything he wanted to be.
Sadly the years ticked by and Cordell was moved from one foster home to another. Most times each new foster home meant a new school and new friends. Cordell’s younger siblings began to be adopted and little by little Cordell began to lose any hope that he would ever have the forever family he so desperately wanted and needed.
Then in 2011Cordell, now 16 years old, was placed with the Everett family. David Everett, a high school football coach and Michelle Everett, a school teacher, were new foster parents and ready to be there for a child in need. They decided from the beginning to treat Cordell as one of the family. He did not have to prove himself, he did not have to earn their trust. He had it from the beginning and it was up to him to keep it. Although he tested the boundaries a few times Cordell soon realized that could be a place to call home.
As Cordell’s sense of security began to strengthen, a bright, charming and athletic boy began to emerge. Cordell, who had always been a C average student, really began to shine. He started getting mostly A’s on his report cards, became the star player on the school football and basketball teams, was elected to the student council, and is now picking Colleges. It is because of the stability, support, and guidance David and Michelle were able to share that Cordell is now visioning a future full of possibilities. That future includes adoption by the Everett’s but both they and Cordell feel that is simply a piece of paper. He is already a part of the Everett family and that will never change.