Fort Leavenworth Volunteer Organization Spotlight: CASA: Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children

By First Judicial District CASA Association (Leavenworth and Atchison Counties, Kansas) for the Fort Leavenworth LampApril 11, 2024

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“We celebrate 30 years of service to children and families in Leavenworth this year, and we are capturing and embracing the theme of ‘30 More in 2024,’” said Deborah Liles, First Judicial CASA Association volunteer recruiter. “By Dec. 31, 2024, our goals are 30 more volunteers, 30 more miles driven, 30 more families served, 30 more donations, 30 more dollars, 30 more partnerships, 30 more CASA volunteer advocates, 30 more stuffed animals, 30 more gift cards for volunteers — 30 more of everything that serves and supports the children and families of Leavenworth County. And most of all, we will strive for 30 more years to serve and support our mission of ‘Strengthening Families Today for a Better Tomorrow,’ and champion and advocate for our amazing community.” First Judicial CASA Association graphic
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – “We celebrate 30 years of service to children and families in Leavenworth this year, and we are capturing and embracing the theme of ‘30 More in 2024,’” said Deborah Liles, First Judicial CASA Association volunteer recruiter. “By Dec. 31, 2024, our goals are 30 more volunteers, 30 more miles driven, 30 more families served, 30 more donations, 30 more dollars, 30 more partnerships, 30 more CASA volunteer advocates, 30 more stuffed animals, 30 more gift cards for volunteers — 30 more of everything that serves and supports the children and families of Leavenworth County. And most of all, we will strive for 30 more years to serve and support our mission of ‘Strengthening Families Today for a Better Tomorrow,’ and champion and advocate for our amazing community.” First Judicial CASA Association graphic (Photo Credit: First Judicial CASA Association graphic) VIEW ORIGINAL
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First Judicial District CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) Association, which provides services to Leavenworth and Atchison (Kansas) counties, is in need of volunteers to support and advocate for children in need.

“We are always in need of (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) and (Child Exchange and Visit Center) volunteers. CASAs are true heroes who change children's lives right here in our own community,” FJDCA Volunteer Recruiter Deborah Liles said. “CEVC volunteers (supervised visitation volunteers) are the heart of our visit center. They ensure that child and parent time, although supervised, strengthens families and provides opportunities for family growth and much needed support.

“Our volunteers are the soul and center of First Judicial District CASA Association,” Liles said. “Please consider becoming a CASA or CEVC volunteer — your time and effort changes children’s outcomes. It changes their stories.”

First Judicial District CASA Association

First Judicial District CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) Association began in 1994 in Leavenworth, Kan., providing services to Leavenworth and Atchison counties. The Leavenworth office is at 100 S. 5th St., and First Judicial CASA Association opened an office in Atchison in 2020.

“We celebrate 30 years of service to children and families in Leavenworth this year, and we are capturing and embracing the theme of ‘30 More in 2024.’ By Dec. 31, 2024, our goals are 30 more volunteers, 30 more miles driven, 30 more families served, 30 more donations, 30 more dollars, 30 more partnerships, 30 more CASA volunteer advocates, 30 more stuffed animals, 30 more gift cards for volunteers — 30 more of everything that serves and supports the children and families of Leavenworth County. And most of all, we will strive for 30 more years to serve and support our mission of ‘Strengthening Families Today for a Better Tomorrow,’ and champion and advocate for our amazing community,” Liles said.

FJDCA is a three-fold organization, housing the CASA/CINC (Children in Need of Care) program — trained volunteers who advocate for the best interest of children while they are in foster care.

These children and youth have experienced abuse, neglect and violence, and they need a voice and an advocate. CASAs are the eyes and ears of the judge and, many times, the only constant in a child’s life while in foster care. CASAs work to ensure permanency in a home where a child can move forward and thrive.

The Child Exchange and Visitation Center and the Child Advocacy Center serve as two other separate but intertwining programs.

As the umbrella to these 3 organizations, FJDCA provides support and crucial services to children who experience abuse and neglect.

FJDCA also provides parenting support classes and numerous prevention programs available communitywide.

CASA history

CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) was started in 1977 in Seattle, Washington, by Judge David Soukup. He had to decide to take a child out of their home, and there was no one there who could speak up for that child. He requested community support and received many responses.

Judge Soukup passed away in 2023; however, we carry on his mission and are extraordinarily grateful for his vision, leadership and remarkable support of the CASA/GAL (guardian ad litem) mission at the local, state and national levels for more than 40 years. Today, the National CASA/GAL Association for Children supports a network of 939 state CASA/GAL organizations and local CASA/GAL programs operating in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Visitation assistance

The Child Exchange and Visit Center program began providing services for supervised visitation in 1997. This program is a court-ordered service that ensures the safety of children while visiting with their non-residential parents. The CEVC makes it possible for children to spend quality time with their non-residential parents in a safe and neutral setting. This setting is crucial for the well-being of a child, especially when restraining orders, court orders or other circumstances might require a parent's interactions with his/her child, or children to be monitored.

Trained volunteers, assisted by security officers, provide a neutral and safe setting where parents and children can spend time together until issues are resolved and/or alternate arrangements are made for parenting time.

This program provides an accurate means of recording both parties' compliance with the rules and guidelines of the program and any current court orders. Both parties must complete an intake before any visitation can take place.

Child Advocacy Center

The Child Advocacy Center became a program with First Judicial CASA Association in 2017. The CAC is a nonprofit organization umbrellaed under the First Judicial District CASA Association.

Together with Law Enforcement and the Department for Children and Families, the CAC uses a multidisciplinary approach to child abuse investigations, working with children ages 3-17 who have been the victims of physical and/or sexual abuse, neglect or are witnesses to violence. The Child Advocacy Center responds to the needs of children by providing safe, child friendly and culturally sensitive services.

Where military and CASA meet

We are seeing an uptick in interest from soldiers, spouses and retirees to become CASA volunteers.

Many of those interested are here for a limited time but still want to volunteer. We look at each situation and time limit, and set a plan in motion to fit their volunteer capabilities.

Retirees are perfect CASA volunteers because they have the time and heart to serve children and families in Leavenworth and Atchison counties.

Soldiers, spouses and family members are amazing volunteers as well. Strong, positive male and female role models change our children’s stories and carve the path to find permanent homes where they will thrive, now and in the future.

We embrace our military volunteers and always find a way to fulfill their specific volunteer goals.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

This month, and throughout the year, First Judicial District CASA Association encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making Leavenworth County a better place for children and families.

By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote the social and emotional well-being of children and youth and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.

Protective factors are the strengths and resources families draw on during challenging times to shield them from life's stresses. Research shows that when parents possess protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminish and optimal outcomes for children, youth and families are promoted.

Major protective factors include knowledge of parenting, knowledge of child development, parental resilience, social connections and concrete supports.

Each year, education is key in raising awareness about the impact child abuse has on children and society. Providing information about best practices that are known to build parental capacity through protective factors is key to helping families become more resilient.

Protective factors are conditions or attributes that mitigate or eliminate maltreatment risk factors and can increase the health and well-being of children and families. They give parents the tools they need to parent effectively, even under stress.

Protective factors include nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and child youth development, parental resilience, social connections and concrete supports for parents.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month is more than just raising awareness about the reality of child maltreatment, abuse and neglect. It is about taking action to prevent and reduce it right here in our own community.

To make child abuse less likely to occur, we must invest in our community and our families. In Leavenworth County, consider partnering with First Judicial District CASA Association and other organizations that are family-focused and strength-based that support families.

All children deserve to grow up in safe, supportive environments. This National Child Abuse Prevention Month. and throughout the year, help make this possible by supporting families and spreading the word about the importance of child abuse prevention.

We are committed to serving our community with purpose, vision and our mission in April and every other day of the year.

To become a CASA volunteer, visit www.casalvks.org/volunteer or contact Liles at deborah@casalvks.org.