Thursday, October 9, 2014

CASA Spotlight- MarĂ­a Elena Thomas

Today’s spotlight of the week is fitting for the CASA we are presenting. Today this CASA witnessed the successful close of her first case, with the kiddo being adopted by his grandparents. This week we are thrilled to present Maria Elena Thomas as our CASA spotlight of the week. Maria Elena has been a huge support to Advocates for Children, and we cannot thank her enough for all the hard work she does for this organization. Thank you so much Maria Elena for all your hard work and time that you have dedicated to Advocates for Children. We are so lucky to have you! Also Congratulations on the successful close of your first case!

   1.)  Why did you become a CASA?
When I first became a school administrator, 11 years ago, I remember CASAs coming to my school to speak with children.  After talking with them I learned that they really enjoyed their volunteer work and I also learned how important that work is on behalf of the children.  Additionally, because of my experience working with children and families and my language abilities, I thought I could contribute to youth and families in a meaningful way.

   2.)  How long have you been a CASA for?
I was appointed as a CASA by Magistrate Janski in May of 2013.  I was assigned my first case shortly thereafter.

   3.)  How many cases have you taken?
I have taken two cases so far.  The first case had a positive ending for the infant in a short amount of time.  He was adopted by his grandparents.  I found the couple to love this child!  He has a nice future ahead of him.  I took my second case in February of this year.  This one is very complicated and it involves three children.  I could easily spend 20 hours each week with this family!  I think this case will last a long time.

4.)   Favorite CASA story or moment?
It’s funny.  I was so excited to have been called for my first case.  I had been trained and I had made it clear to the case coordinators that I have tons of experience working with immigrant families, that I am fluent in Spanish and that I knew how to work with at-risk youth.  I was expecting to be assigned to a Spanish speaking family with school-aged children.  So when Andrea presented the case that had been assigned to me, I thought they had made a mistake.  The child was an infant, three months old, red-headed, white as could be and from an only English speaking family. The total opposite of what I was expecting!  I was so shocked that I asked Andrea to verify that this was the case for me.  She even offered that I turn it down if I didn’t feel comfortable with the case.  At that moment I realized that I was already committed to this child.  I couldn’t turn him down.  He needed me and for whatever reason I was the person to help him.  In hindsight, I know this was the right case for me.  I feel that my advocacy for him was important and meaningful to his future.

5.)   Favorite quote?
“Don't prepare the path for the child; prepare the child for the path.”  ~Anonymous

I have always liked this quote.  The most important work that families can do with children is to instill in them values – values that can be accessed anytime in their future.  People go through ups and downs.  They may have periods of time when they lack basic needs and even when they have nothing, the one thing that nobody can take away from them is their values.  These are deeply rooted in their beings and can be accessed at anytime.

The most important way to prepare children for the path of their lives is to inculcate strong values in them: integrity, the importance of education, unconditional love, honesty, justice, determination, and generosity of spirit.  With these, through thick and thin, children will pull through and have a productive future.

When I think about the families that we serve, I wonder about this.  I separate the material goods that they may or may not have from the long-lasting values that are being taught and modeled in the family.  This gave me an idea of whether the child will be okay in the future or not.

6.)  Who is the most influential person in your life?
Every person that I meet is influential in my life.  I can’t say that there is one more influential than the other because I will not be the same person I was before meeting the next one!  I make it a point to be present for the people that I meet.  I want to listen to their stories and seek to understand their points of view.  This attitude strengthens me so that I can be a better person for others.

7.)  Favorite Children’s book?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Even though Max misbehaved and he is punished to his room, his mom still loves him!  And he knows it.  Children will misbehave.  Parents must set limits and issue consequences.  Unconditional love keeps them together.

8.)  When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals.  Then, in college, I found out that science was hard for me.   However, I really enjoyed studying French and public relations, so I quickly changed my major.


We are lucky to be able to add Maria Elena to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! Thanks for all that you have done for so many people, Maria Elena, and we know that you will continue to make a positive influence on many more individuals!



Friday, September 19, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Judy Kaplan

I hope you all are having a wonderful Friday. What better way to end your Friday than with a CASA Spotlight of the week! This week we get the pleasure of announcing our wonderful CASA Judy Kaplan. Judy has been a huge asset to this organization and we are so grateful for all the work she continues to do for us! Thank you Judy for all the hard work you have done for Advocates for Children, we are so lucky to have you!

1.  Why did you become a CASA?
I became a CASA because I truly wanted to make a difference in a child's life.  After a long career in education, I also missed the daily interactions that I had with my students.  Becoming a CASA seemed to be a great way to fill that void.  Not only does my CASA position do that for me, but hopefully, along the way, I have been able to help and support my CASA children, as they encounter the complicated foster care and court systems. 

2.  How long have you been a CASA?
I have been a CASA for a year and a half. 

3.  How many cases have you taken?
I have had only one case.  I started with a 16 year old girl and about half way through the case, I became CASA to her 12 year old brother. 

4.  Favorite CASA story or moment?
My favorite moment was when my case closed and the children's grandmother was given permanent custody of the children!  It was my happiest moment in court and the satisfaction that came from finally seeing closure to a long and complicated case was overwhelming. 

5.  Favorite quote:
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."    
-Steve Prefontaine

6.  Who is the most influential person in your life?
My father was the most influential person in my life. 

7.   Favorite children's book:
My favorite book as a child was "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
My favorite children's book now is "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. 

8.  When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a teacher!


We are lucky to be able to add Judy to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! Thanks for all that you have done for so many people, Judy, and we know that you will continue to make a positive influence on many more individuals!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Lynn Harper

We are excited to announce that Lynn Harper is our CASA spotlight of the week. We asked Lynn a little bit about her experience as a CASA and also asked a couple questions that let us get to know a little more about her. Lynn has truly been a wonderful asset to our organization and we are so lucky to have her. Thank you Lynn for everything you continue to do for CASA!

 1.  Why did you become a CASA?
After I was laid off (for the last time), I was looking for something totally different from Corporate America.  My sister recommended that I look into being a CASA. She was a CASA in California and talked about the work she did to change a teen's life and I was looking for just that.  How could I impact someone else's life for the better. So I signed up for CASA training and here I am. I love it!

2.   How long have you been a CASA for?
I finished my training in 2011. So I would say 3 years.

3.   How many cases have you taken?
I am working on my second case, since I became a CASA volunteer

4.   Favorite CASA story or moment?
Once, when I took all the kids to the park and they were running around and having a good time, Draden (who didn't have a belt on his pants) was running and his pants fell down and we all started laughing (including Draden). We all laughed for the next few minutes.

5.   Favorite quote?
 "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change".

6.   Who is the most influential person in your life?
The most influential person in my life was my father.  My father always made sure his children were raised with love and respect for ourselves and others and no matter what happened, his family always came first.  He was very old school.

7.   Favorite Children’s book?
All of Dr. Seuss's book (my first book was "The cat in the hat")

8.   When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I didn't have big aspirations when I was a child, but I guess I wanted to be a secretary.


We are lucky to be able to add Lynn to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! Thanks for all that you have done for so many people, Lynn, and we know that you will continue to make a positive influence on many more individuals!




 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Bryan Blakely

We are excited to announce that Bryan Blakely is our CASA spotlight of the week. We asked Bryan a little bit about his experience as a CASA and a few questions that let us get to know a little more about him. Here is what Bryan had to say:

Why did you become a CASA?
became a CASA because I have two young daughters of my own and love them more than anything in the world. I love children and cannot believe the horrible things some children have to go through. Once my girls got to be 6 and 8, I figured I finally had some time to help less fortunate children. I had heard of the organization because my mother was a CASA up in Larimer County.

How long have you been a CASA for?  How many cases have you taken?
I have been a CASA since February 2013. I am on my second case. The first had three kids, 6, 7, 9 (two boys and a girl). Now I have one 16 year old boy.

Favorite CASA story or moment?
My favorite CASA story... So many great times and hilarious adventures. Losing happy meal toys onto roof tops, rescuing stuffed animals from major streets (quite safely), skate tricks at the skate park, basketball at the swimming pool, etc... But I guess what sticks out most, because it's how we closed out all of our visits with my first 3 kiddos, I would say. On the way home, in my truck, music turned way up, singing along to Run-DMC or Grand Master Flash - or some other old school hip-hop over and over and over again. It was wild fun and plus they got a little 'history of hip-hop' lesson!

Favorite quote?
"We see what we want to believe"

Who is the most influential person in your life?  
My wife

Favorite Children’s book?
Favorite Children's Book... As a kid I loved anything by Shel Silverstein or Mercer Mayer, especially "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo." As a parent, I have especially loved reading to my girls my favorites plus all the Mo Willems books, the Chronicles of Narnia; The Harry Potter Series... the list goes on.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, when I grew up I wanted to be an undersea explorer. Actually, I really wanted to be Jaque Cousteau. As in literally BE him. I was pretty obsessed with his National Geographic show. Eventually I realized that I needed to tone down my ambition a bit and not try to literally be him, but maybe just be an explorer.  

We are lucky to be able to add Bryan to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! Thanks for all that you have done for so many people, Bryan, and we know that your list of those you help will just keep getting longer!



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Leonora Corbo

This week we are featuring Leonora Corbo as our CASA spotlight of the week! Leonora has been an active CASA for our organization for the past 6 years. Leonora continues to have an impact on each of her cases, making each of her relationships a memorable one. Leonora has done an outstanding job for Advocates for Children, and we have been so grateful to have her. We would just like to thank Leonora for all the hard work she has done for our organization. Thank you Leonora for all your hard work!

Why did you become a CASA?
I always wanted to have children in my life. I had two children and was a preschool teacher. When I retired I wanted to be part of children's lives and to have them be part of mine. CASA was the perfect fit! 

How long have you been a CASA for?  How many cases have you taken?
I have been a CASA since August 27, 2008. I have had 5 cases since I became a CASA. 

Favorite CASA story or moment?
Recently, while at a MacDonald's playground, my husband and I were watching our two CASA children play with another children. They were running from him pretending he was going to attack them. They hid behind us, yelling: "You cannot harm us! We are behind our protectors, they will not let anything happen to us".

Favorite quote?
“If not now... When?"

Who is the most influential person in your life?  
The most influential person in my life would have to be my mother.  

Favorite Children’s book?
“Hansel and Gretel" -Brothers Grimm

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. 

We are so lucky to be able to add Leonora to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! We cannot thank you enough for all the work you have done for Advocates for Children.Thank you Leonora for being an amazing CASA!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Valerie Etchepare

We are excited to announce that Valerie Etchepare is our CASA spotlight of the week. We asked Valerie a little bit about her experience as a CASA and also asked a couple questions that let us get to know a little more about her. Valerie has truly been a wonderful asset to our organization and we are so lucky to have her. Thank you Valerie for everything you continue to do for CASA!

Why did you become a CASA?
I have always wanted to work with children. As we started the adoption process of our son, I felt a pull to help more kids than I could adopt. I found a blog post about CASA and researched it and felt it would be a good way to give back and help kids in the foster care system. 

How long have you been a CASA for?  How many cases have you taken?
I have been a CASA since May 2011. I have worked on 2 CASA cases. 

Favorite CASA story or moment?
This is a hard question. I have had 2 extraordinary sets of CASA kids. I have been a part of many sibling visits as on both cases, my sibling groups were split. I think watching my current CASA kids and how they light up when they get that precious time with their brothers is priceless and my favorite. Watching my girls grow and heal as they have found their voice and support through my current CASA case has been amazing. These kids have been through so much and they have such strength. I am honored to be a part of their journey. 

Favorite quote?
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”

“We can change the world and make a difference.  It is in your hands to make a difference.”  
- Nelson Mandela

Unless people like you care a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It is not.”  
- Dr. Suess (The Lorax)

Who is the most influential person in your life?  
My grandma, she is one of the strongest ladies I know; and she is honest and funny.  

Favorite Children’s book?
“Oh the Places You’ll Go” Dr. Suess


We are lucky to be able to add Valerie to our long list of amazing and life-changing CASA volunteers! Thanks for all that you have done for so many people, Valerie, and we know that you will continue to make a positive influence on many more individuals!

Friday, June 27, 2014

CASA Spotlight- Donna Rood


This week we have the honor of featuring are truly spectacular CASA, Donna Rood. She has done such an amazing job, since her start in 2007.We are so thankful to have her, and appreciate all the work she has done for this organization. Thank you Donna for everything you have and continue to do!

Why did I become a CASA?
I knew that children have been neglected and abused for a long time.  However, I was shocked to see how many needed CASAs and we're able to monitor their well-being and make life more enjoyable for them.  Being a child should be a wonderful experience, and should be lived happily, not in fear.  I realize too, that this will probably be a life-long relationship.  

How long have I been a CASA?
I was appointed as a CASA in November 2007.

How many cases have I had?
I've had one case ... my first.  I began with a family of 5 children.  After completing the course of study, I was offered a couple of options, but I knew that taking on 5 children would be difficult to fill.  So I gathered up my courage and took it on.  What a blessing it has been.  Over the course of my time with them, some have become adopted, others are in the process of being adopted, and some will never be adopted.   It's been wonderful watching them grow over the years.

My favorite CASA story?
There have been so many fun stories, but the one that touched my heart was when the children had been unsuccessfully placed with a family member out of state, and they were sent back into the system here in Colorado.  The caseworker told me that I was the first person they asked to see.  It's been fulfilling to see all of them finally succeed in school and in life situations as they grow older.  It hasn't been easy, but I knew that deep down they really wanted to do well.  One of my goals is to keep the siblings in contact with each other and thus far, it has been successful.  They look forward to their time together since they're all in different locations.

Favorite quote?
Has to be from Mother Teresa; a woman of great understanding and endless love of everyone.
"Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love".

Most influential person?
The most influential people in my life would probably have to be my parents. As I was raising my own children, so often my parent’s words came out of my mouth.  It's a common thought that as you grow older, you realize that your parents really did know more, and they were most of the time right. I want my CASA kiddos to have the same good values when they become parents, and stop the cycle of neglect and abuse.

Favorite children's book?
Has to be "The Little Engine That Could'.  I had this book as a child, my children had this book, and now my grandsons have this book.

What did I want to be when I grew up?
Teaching was my favorite game to play.  Although, I did not get become a teacher, I have been able to reach children in varying situations ... religious education, homework, and talking to my kiddos about ordinary life situations that they have questions about.  I never thought I would end up as an accountant.

Anything else you would like us to know? 
I'm flattered that CASA would like to 'spotlight' me.  Being a CASA has now become just a part of my life - my extended family.  We talk about successes and shortcomings just like a parent would to their own child.  They know they can tell me anything, and I praise them for their successes and try resolving shortcomings.


Thank you for everything you have done for Advocates for Children. We are so grateful to have you. Thank you Donna for all your hard work!