CASA

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Angela Holloran

Posted in CASA on June 17th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, join us weekly as we highlight the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children.   

 

What is your role at CASA?  
I am a CASA Advocate Supervisor.

How long have you been with the program?  
I have been with CASA since August 2017. 

What led you to become involved with CASA? 
I originally got interested in CASA when I was looking for a career change. I wanted a job that would allow me to utilize my 35 years in human services. My experience included working with DCF and the probation department. 

What do you find most rewarding about working for CASA?  
I enjoy working with our advocates who are so dedicated and committed to helping children and families. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 
I like spending time with family and friends. 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Klara Vajda

Posted in CASA on June 9th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, we are highlighting staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. This week we spoke with volunteer Klara Vajda.

What is your role at CASA?
I am a court appointed special advocate volunteer. 

How long have you been with the program?
I began working with CASA in 2017, after I retired from my full-time job. I have been on board ever since. 

What led you to become involved with CASA?

Two significant memories from my life in Hungary motivated me to become a CASA volunteer.  

The first one is memories of my father; He was an orphan. His mother died of complications of the Spanish flu, and his father died as a prisoner of war after World War I ended. He constantly spoke about the neglect that he and his sister endured in foster homes. Thinking of how that experience, even at an older age, negatively affected my father encouraged me to get involved. 

The second memory is of when I was a manager at a computer bureau and had an employee in her early 20s going through divorce. She always looked incredibly sad, but I could never figure out why. One day she shared with me that when she was younger she was sexually abused by her father, who was then sentenced to 10 years in prison. At that point in time, he was being released and she no longer felt safe. 

Her story impacted me deeply. I made a promise to myself that I would always protect children, in any way I could, for the rest of my life. I signed up for a CASA training almost 27 years ago, but in the middle of training funding was no longer available so it was stopped. After that life took me on a different path, but I continued to advocate and help protect children with other organizations. The day I retired at the age of 74, I knew it was time to uphold my promise. 

What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
The most rewarding thing is seeing the outcome of the work we do. Working with children who have gone through rough and painful times at such a young age and seeing them start to heal and flourish is an amazing sight. They stop being angry and start to look forward to all the good things happening in their life. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
I cherish my time with friends and family and cook for them. In Hungary I grew up working hard from a young age. I always prayed to one day find work that I enjoyed so much that it would not feel like work. I am passionate about social justice and I’m involved in different ways to do just that. There is nothing more rewarding than helping those who are in need spiritually emotionally, physically, and financially. 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Jamie Dunphy

Posted in CASA on June 2nd, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, join us weekly as we highlight the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children.   

 

What is your role at CASA?  
I am a supervisor.

How long have you been with the program?  
I’ve been an advocate with CASA for about two and a half years, and a supervisor since November. 

What led you to become involved with CASA? 
My wife and I adopted our daughter through the Department of Children & Families (DCF). That experience got me interested in social work. When I began looking for a new volunteer opportunity, the social worker who runs the adoption support group we attend recommended CASA. 

What do you find most rewarding about working for CASA?  
It’s really gratifying to advocate strongly for a particular service or change, to have it implemented, and then to see the positive effect it has in a child’s life. We’re fortunate that we often get to stay on a case from beginning to end, which gives us the opportunity to serve as a constant presence in the lives of our kids. It also allows us to see some of the longterm influence of our work.  

What do you like to do outside of work? 
I write, record, and perform music. When I have the time and energy, I like going for long runs to clear my head. And I love spending time with my family; we try to do a weekly movie night and family walk. 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Libby Poland

Posted in CASA on May 19th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, we are highlighting staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. This week we spoke with volunteer Libby Poland.

 

 

What is your role at CASA?
I am a CASA volunteer.

How long have you been with the program?
 I have been a CASA volunteer with Family Services for about 7 years. 

What led you to become involved with CASA?
I was inspired to volunteer with CASA after hearing a CASA speak at North Parish Unitarian Church about her deeply meaningful experiences as an advocate in the Merrimack Valley. 

What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
I enjoy supporting local families who are having trouble navigating parenthood. The children are most vulnerable in these struggling families, and I feel it important to advocate for their safety and health while also supporting the parents. Parenthood is challenging enough without obstacles. I feel that all families need support for a healthy community. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
I am a French teacher at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. Outside of school, I sing with the New England Classical Singers, hike the open spaces around Andover, enjoy making pottery, and spend time with my husband and three grown children. I also love to garden and travel when I can! 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Ellen Killam

Posted in CASA on May 12th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, join us weekly as we highlight the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your role at CASA?  
I have two roles. I am the administrative support specialist at the Essex County CASA office, and I am also a CASA. I am currently on my second case with my CASA role.  

How long have you been with the program?  
I have been a CASA since October 2019, and I have been working in the CASA office since February 2021. 

What led you to become involved with CASA? 
My interest with CASA grew when I heard about it on the Dr. Phil Show. Dr. Phil spoke about how a CASA is a voice for children in the court. Having gone through a divorce where I realized my children were not being heard, this spoke to my heart.

What do you find most rewarding about working for CASA?  
In my administrative role I love supporting the CASA staff. What they do is so important and they are all so extremely dedicated. In my role as a CASA, being a voice for children and doing my best to ensure that their best interest is served is an important responsibility that I find rewarding.

What do you like to do outside of work? 
I do other volunteer work; I volunteer at my local food pantry and I do outreach and social justice work with my church. When the weather gets warmer, I love hitting the bike trails with my other half and enjoying the outdoors. I hope to be doing more traveling soon now that life is getting back to normal.    

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Charles Kenher

Posted in CASA on May 5th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, we are highlighting staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. This week we spoke with volunteer Charles Kenher.

Essex County CASA will be recognized at this year’s Family Service’s Spring Gala today Thursday, May 5, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your role at CASA?
I am a volunteer advocate.

How long have you been with the program?
I have been with the program for five and a half years. 

What led you to become involved with CASA?
When I retired in 2016, I wanted to transition into some type of volunteer work.  My wife, Charlotte, knew about CASA and suggested I look into volunteering here. 

What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
It’s rewarding to have the opportunity to help children who are stuck in difficult and sometimes horrible situations. Not only that, but I get to do it by working with CASA staff and volunteers who are just as committed and passionate about the work we are doing. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
I enjoy reading (history mostly), woodworking, gardening, and relaxing on the beach.  I also like to cook and, again thanks to a suggestion from my wife, I recently started baking bread from scratch. My low success rate of edible to inedible loaves is somewhat of a concern, but I haven’t given up yet! 

Essex County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program Celebrates 30 Years

Posted in CASA, Press Releases on April 29th, 2022 with No Comments

LAWRENCE, April 29, 2022—Family Services of the Merrimack Valley’s Essex County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Program is celebrating its 30th Anniversary of providing advocacy for abused and neglected children. Since its founding in 1992, more than 400 volunteers have advocated for over 1,000 vulnerable children in Essex County. Founder Valorie Faretra—who at the time was a CASA volunteer in Boston—saw the positive impact CASA volunteers made and wanted to bring the program to another area of the Commonwealth where there was a significant need. The Lawrence area was chosen based on feedback from Juvenile Court staff and other child welfare professionals. 

With support by the National CASA/GAL Association, Essex County CASA is a member of a nationwide network of almost 950 programs. The program was housed in the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence until 1994; it was then administered by the Psychological Center for five years before becoming a part of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley in 1999. At its beginning, Essex County CASA only served the Lawrence Juvenile court but has since expanded its services to all four Juvenile Courts in Essex County. 

“I am proud to be part of a program that has such a positive impact on the lives of so many vulnerable children in our community,” said Danielle Emig, director of the Essex County CASA Program. “Unlike other providers involved in these children’s lives who often have large caseloads, our CASA volunteers focus on one family at a time, working with the family until the court case is closed. This personal attention helps to ensure that these children are safe, have the services they need, and reach permanency as quickly as possible.” 

CASA volunteers engage in a rigorous screening process and participate in 30 hours of training before serving on a case. Today, Essex County CASA serves over 150 children annually. “Our goal is to continue expanding our volunteer base so that we can serve more children,” Ms. Emig says, noting that more CASAs are needed to meet the needs of the court.  

Family Services of the Merrimack Valley will kick off the anniversary celebrations by honoring Essex County CASA at its Spring Gala on May 5, at the Andover Country Club. More information can be found on the Family Services website: www.fsmv.org/spring-gala. 


About Essex County CASA: The Essex County CASA program, operated by Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, serves children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. The program provides trained and supervised volunteer Advocates, who are appointed as Guardians ad Litem on “Care and Protection” cases in Essex County (Lawrence, Newburyport, Salem, and Lynn Juvenile Courts). CASA Advocates represent the best interests of foster children throughout the duration of Care and Protection cases to resolve the social, emotional, medical and educational impacts of prior abuse, and to ensure victims do not experience re-victimization while in the custody of the state. 

For more information, please visit: https://www.fsmv.org/child-advocacy/ 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Cindy Parra

Posted in CASA on April 28th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, join us weekly as we highlight the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. 

Essex County CASA will be recognized at this year’s Family Service’s Spring Gala on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your role at CASA?
I am a CASA Supervisor. 

How long have you been with the program?
A little over two years. 

What led you to become involved with CASA?
I’ve worked in the human services field for a while now. I have experience in the military working in a mental health unit, being an intensive care coordinator for children with behavioral health challenges, and I am in the process of completing a Masters in social work. When I came across CASA, I felt that the mission aligned with my personal views and desire to help those in need. As an Afro-latina immigrant, CASA presented an opportunity to advocate for children in my community that are in the system that otherwise would not have a voice or consistent person in their life. 

What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
Working with the advocates is one of the most rewarding things about working for CASA. The advocates all come from diverse backgrounds and, as such, have very different views from my own which makes our collaboration so much better. We all see things from different perspectives, offering a broader view of situations at hand and ultimately allowing us to better advocate for these kids. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
I attend church services, love to read, sing (which I do in church), as well as spending time with my son, niece, nephew, and parents. 

 

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Kathleen Cook

Posted in CASA on April 21st, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, we are highlighting staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. This week we spoke with volunteer Kathleen Cook.

Essex County CASA will be recognized at this year’s Family Service’s Spring Gala on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your role at CASA?
I am currently the board president of Massachusetts CASA Association and have been an active advocate for the Essex County CASA program for 24 years. 

How long have you been with the program?
I have been with the program since 1998.

What led you to become involved with CASA?
I was looking for a rewarding volunteer opportunity where I could make a lasting impact, CASA seemed like the perfect fit.

What do you find most rewarding about working/volunteer for CASA?
The most rewarding part of being a CASA advocate is knowing that I have made a difference in the life of our most vulnerable children. 

What do you like to do outside of work?
Spend time with my grandson, go skiing, biking, swimming, and play tennis.

30 Years of CASA Highlights: Pam Wanstall

Posted in CASA on April 14th, 2022 with No Comments

2022 marks the 30th year of Family Services’ Essex County CASA providing advocacy for abused and neglected children in Essex County. As we celebrate 30 years, join us weekly as we highlight the staff and volunteers who on a daily basis help us advocate for these vulnerable children. 

Essex County CASA will be recognized at this year’s Family Service’s Spring Gala on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your role at CASA?  
I am a supervisor of CASA Advocates; mainly for cases we are assigned in the Lynn and Salem Juvenile Courts. 

How long have you been with the program?  
I became a CASA Advocate (volunteer) In November 2015. I became a CASA supervisor in April 2018. 

What led you to become involved with CASA? 
 I have both my BSW and my MSW and I’m a licensed social worker. Child welfare has always been of interest to me. Prior to becoming a volunteer, I was a stay-at-home mom to my four children and was looking to get back into social work. I started researching GALs (Guardian Ad Litems) and came across CASA. 

What do you find most rewarding about working for CASA?  
Oh, there’s a lot, but I would have to say the two most important are the relationships we build with the children we advocate for (as I carry two cases of my own), and my relationships with our amazing, dedicated, caring volunteers. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 
  I like to spend time with my family, read, binge watch series, and have fun with my dogs (two Australian Shepherds) to de-stress.