Moving Forward

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world, for indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead

As many of you know, the end of September marked the conclusion of my tenure as Executive Director for Fairfax CASA. I am grateful to have been a part of this remarkable organization for eight years, and will take many wonderful memories and friendships with me. It has been an honor to partner with you to ensure the safety of our youth and help them thrive.

Over the last four years, Fairfax CASA has reached its goal to serve every child referred by the court, introduced many program enhancements to benefit youth, helped to shape a new practice in the state allowing 18-21 year olds to receive continued service from CASA volunteers, and secured a strong financial base to ensure our continued ability to serve every child in need. None of this would have been possible without your commitment and caring. Thank you for your trust, passion, and generosity in helping us to achieve these goals.

With great enthusiasm, I welcome Mrs. Darcy Cunningham as Fairfax CASA’s new Executive Director. Darcy comes to Fairfax CASA with a strong understanding of our work and a history of leadership defending vulnerable populations. As a child abuse and neglect attorney for the District of Columbia’s Office of Attorney General, Darcy was intimately involved with the child protection system. She has also worked for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a philanthropic family foundation, and most recently as the Program Director at the ALLY Advocacy Center, which serves youth and adults with disabilities. She has built strong relationships with stakeholders at each organization and is committed to a collaborative leadership approach. Darcy has program management, fundraising, grant writing, and public speaking experience. She even inaugurated a race at her last organization!

Darcy has devoted her professional career to improving the lives of vulnerable populations but has a particular passion for working with child victims of abuse and neglect. “I have always felt that we need the child protection system,” she shares, “but it can be better – I want to help make it better.”

Please join Darcy as she leads Fairfax CASA into its next quarter century. Together, we can change lives.

Click to read the remaining October 2014 Newsletter articles.

Light of Hope Volunteer Appreciation Celebration 2014

DSC_0151Fairfax CASA held its annual Light of Hope Celebration on Sunday, September 21, to honor the 165 CASA volunteers who tirelessly lift up the lives of abused and neglected children. The event took place at the Center for Education at Wolf Trap, where guests were treated to smooth jazz by Nicole Saphos trio and heavy hors d’oeuvres.

Lisa Banks, Fairfax CASA’s Executive Director, started the evening’s presentation by praising the tremendous work of CASA Volunteers over the program’s 25 year history. “CASA Volunteers are those extraordinary individuals who stand by children during their toughest times-offering them a caring hand and strong support that lights their way,” Lisa reflected.
Matthew L. Raymond and SRA International, Inc. received the Child Advocacy Award. McGuireWoods, LLP was recognized with the Corporate Champion Award for its support and corporate citizenship.

The most important award at any Light of Hope event, the May Cook Heart of Gold Award, was given to Ed and Patti Rager – the first time that a husband and wife have received such recognition. Fairfax CASA Supervisor MaryAnn Wohlford introduced the Ragers, noting that the couple “personifies the very essence of the role of CASA volunteers- an unwavering commitment to advocate for the best interest of children.”

Other highlights of the evening included the introduction of Darcy Cunningham as Fairfax CASA’s incoming Executive Director. Darcy will assume the executive role in early October, when Lisa Banks departs for a new position. State Senator Dave Marsden received a special leadership award for his hard work in clarifying legislation, so that juvenile judges may continue the appointment of a CASA volunteers when youth age out of foster care at 18. Lisa Banks received a surprise May Cook award to honor her accomplishments on behalf of the program. “I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with all of you—it has truly been the most rewarding professional and personal period of my life. Together- we have done a lot of amazing things!”

Click to read the remaining October 2014 Newsletter articles.

May Cook Award – Light of Hope 2014  

The RagersAt Fairfax CASA’s Light of Hope Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, Executive Director Lisa Banks presented the program’s highest honor, the May Cook Heart of Gold Award, on Ed and Patti Rager.

The Ragers, the first couple ever to receive the award, were sworn in as CASA volunteers in 2007. For Ed, CASA volunteering has allowed him to have an impact on those who are at the beginning of their lives. For Patti, the experience has allowed the retired pediatric nurse to renew her connection with children.

Ed and Patti have served on multiple cases, including one with a family of seven children ranging in age from one to nine when the case began. The Ragers committed themselves to advocating for each child’s particular needs. They became involved in all aspects of their lives, never failing to visit each of them, no matter where they were.

Supervisor MaryAnn Wohlford praised the Ragers for their ”commitment, insight, and advocacy for these children. Combined with their collaborative approach, Ed and Patti have gained the respect of all the professionals.” Among many accolades, one Guardian ad litem described the Ragers as “a wonderful representation of all that is good in CASA.”

The Ragers feel very strongly about giving back to the community. For them, CASA volunteering is “frustrating, heartbreaking, humbling − and most of all rewarding.”

Click to read the remaining October 2014 Newsletter articles.

Going the Distance for Youth

Exactly two years ago, in August, 2012, I wrote to you about a young man who had come under the court’s protection after repeated sexual and physical abuse. The youth’s mental health had rapidly deteriorated without proper attention from his family and he was placed in foster care. I worried that Fairfax CASA would not have the capacity to help him because we were understaffed and struggling to find CASA volunteers for a number of waiting youth.

Soon after my letter, veteran CASA volunteer Siobhan agreed to be this young man’s advocate. Through skilled and caring dedication to his needs and well being, Siobhan has become one of his most trusted sources of support. While he continues to face challenges,   this young man has thrived in his foster home and school, and is building a life of opportunity, which includes college next year.

This story would be magnificent enough if it ended here, but there is more.

Nearing his 18th birthday this month, the young man and Siobhan discussed the option of her continuing as his CASA volunteer until age 21, while he receives independent living services from the Department of Family Services. Years ago, this request would not have been considered – or even possible. By law, CASA volunteers did not have a clear role as advocates after the age of majority.

Fortunately, our Commonwealth has placed special emphasis in recent years on providing additional supports for vulnerable youth who do not have family available to help them navigate adulthood. New legislation, which took effect on July 1, clarifies that the courts in Virginia may order CASA volunteers to remain on a case after a youth’s 18th birthday. And – that is exactly what happened.

This month, at a hearing for this young man’s case, a Fairfax County juvenile court judge continued Siobhan’s appointment to serve the youth after age 18, making Siobhan the first Fairfax CASA volunteer ever to do so. The young man then shared with the judge that although trust does not come easily to him, he trusts his Guardian ad litem and Siobhan and is glad they will remain in his life.

We have witnessed history in the making this month, and I am proud that this young man – and many others to follow – will have a CASA volunteer by their side, supporting their entrance into adulthood.

What a magnificent difference in just two years.

In other news:

 

Click to read the remaining Summer 2014 Newsletter articles.

“Splurge for Children!” at Fairfax CASA’s Auction Dinner

The Wine HouseIn September, the Fairfax CASA Board of Directors will host a special fundraising event– the first of its kind in the program’s history.

Splurge for Children, a dinner and silent auction, will take place Tuesday, September 9, 7:00 PM, at The Wine House in Fairfax City. Forty guests have reserved a spot to enjoy a five-course meal and wine pairing, while bidding on exclusive silent auction items.

The funds raised from this special evening will support Fairfax CASA’s work throughout the year.

With the community’s involvement, we have been able to increase awareness about child abuse and neglect as well as raise money for our important mission. We are most fortunate to have support from business owners like The Wine House, who are committed to giving back to the community. With their generosity and a big “splurge” from our special guests, even more at-risk children will have an opportunity to grow and learn in a safe and loving home.

Interested in donating a silent Auction gift?

To donate an auction item, email Jennifer Bellhouse

Click to read the remaining Summer 2014 Newsletter articles.

CASA Volunteer Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris “I call her jellybean.”

That’s the nickname CASA Volunteer Sheila Morris uses for the teenage girl for whom she advocates. Now almost 18, the teen first came to the court’s attention when her parents neglected to care for her progressive neurological disease. It’s a challenging case, as the girl also struggles with mental health issues and needs special care.

Sheila is a constant figure in the young girl’s life, following her through multiple foster homes and repeated hospitalizations. “Whenever I appear for a visit in a new place, she asks, ‘How did you know I was here?’ These children have learned not to count on people. To realize that someone is always keeping track of them, that’s not something they take for granted.”

The path towards becoming a CASA volunteer started in 2005, when Sheila saw a notice in the paper for an information session. The program sounded interesting – Sheila studied early childhood education and loves children – but she was raising two boys, working, and did not have time to volunteer. She cut out the notice and placed it in her desk drawer, pulling it out now and then and debating whether the time was right for CASA. In 2010 she decided to take the plunge.

As a CASA volunteer, Sheila values her ability to keep other team members in the loop. “I often have a piece of information that I assume the others have and then find out they do not.” Just recently, she learned that the girl would not be graduating from high school before her eighteenth birthday. Sheila notified the social worker to ensure that the girl would continue to receive services, even after she aged out of the system.

Another proud achievement? The smile on her teen’s face when she uses her nickname. “She was called Jellybean as a young child. When I call her that now I get to enjoy her wonderful impetuous laugh. Those moments of joy are priceless.”

Click to read the remaining Summer 2014 Newsletter articles.

Do More 24

Tomorrow, June 19, has been designated as Do More 24™ in the DC metro area. Organized by United Way of the National Capital Area, Do More 24™ leverages the power of individuals with a one day online fundraising event to support the region’s nonprofit organizations as they respond to our community’s most pressing challenges. Fairfax CASA is proud to participate in this year’s campaign and we invite you to participate as well!

Please make a donation or widen our circle of support by passing this email on to three friends.

At Fairfax CASA, our goal is to ensure that every abused and neglected child has the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive in the safe embrace of a loving home. Our challenge is to provide a highly trained and supervised CASA volunteer advocate who will stand up for these children in court and fight for their rights.

Be a part of this powerful movement:
1) Starting at midnight tonight, you have 24 hours to make an online donation
2) Bookmark this giving link
3) Encourage 3 friends to give

Make tomorrow a great day for children in our community!

In other news:

 

Click to read the remaining June 2014 Newsletter articles.

 

Fairfax CASA’s ExxonMobil Summer Intern

stephanie Please stop in and say hello to Stephanie Scriven, this summer’s ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program intern. This summer, Stephanie will be working on painting a picture of Fairfax CASA’s story, using film as her canvas.

Stephanie was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Though most of her family is in the military, Stephanie says she was blessed to be able to stay in one place most of her life. You might hear Steph talk about El Paso as one of the best places in the world, but she also loves to travel and have adventures. As a self-proclaimed “out-doorsy” person, Steph loves to go four-wheeling, go on cruises, and camp in tents with her family and friends.

During the year, she is devoted to her studies at George Mason University pursuing a double major in Film and Video Studies and Social Work.

Stephanie has a passion for children and plans to use her love of film to support those who are less fortunate. When asked about her philosophy on a career in film, Steph says, “We all have a story; it’s just a matter of telling it or not.”

Click to read the remaining June 2014 Newsletter articles.

Fairfax CASA Welcomes our new Executive Assistant and Finance Coordinator!

Lauren Raised in Reston, VA, Lauren Arcudi received her B.S in Political Science with a concentration in Government from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Lauren began her career as a Legislative Assistant and Finance Director to Delegate Joe Morrissey at the Virginia House of Delegates. Prior to working with Mr. Morrissey, Lauren served as a finance intern for Senator Tim Kaine’s 2012 Senate Campaign. In her free time Lauren enjoys walking her dog Theodore, reading and going to theater.

This month, Lauren begins her role as Executive Assistant and Finance Coordinator, replacing Rebecca Megel. Lauren will assist Lisa Banks with all administrative, HR, fundraising, and financial matters for Fairfax CASA. Lauren shares that she loves fundraising and is excited about making next year’s Run for the Children an even bigger success!

Passionate about the needs of children, Lauren believes that every child deserves a loving home. She is thrilled to be working at Fairfax CASA where she will have an opportunity to make a difference in her community. Please stop by and introduce yourself to Lauren when you are in the office!

Click to read the remaining June 2014 Newsletter articles.

A Shared Legacy of Hope for Children

On May 3, with the help of many faithful sponsors, we hosted our 4th annual Run for the Children in Fairfax. It was another spectacular event, enhanced by beautiful spring weather and the participation of nearly 900 runners and walkers and 200 volunteers who came together to honor the powerful work of our CASA volunteers. The race grounds buzzed with energy as families, friends, and colleagues celebrated Fairfax CASA’s 25 years of advocacy for more than 6,000 abused and neglected children. Supporters applauded our ability to provide a CASA volunteer to every abused or neglected child who enters the court’s protection, a milestone that we reached and have maintained for nearly a year.

We started the Run for the Children as an occasion where our entire community might engage in the fight to keep children safe and to protect their dignity and rights. You have met the call, and exceeded our expectations by not only participating year after year, but also by bringing a new friend or two each time to learn about CASA. And with each year, your collective generosity has grown; the race has now raised a total of $589,463!

Our achievements have not happened by chance. They are the result of vision, determination, and compassion put forth by thousands of individuals for a quarter century. Our founders, and past and present staff, CASA volunteers, board members, stakeholders, supporters, donors – in short, YOU – share in Fairfax CASA’s legacy of giving abused and neglected children hope and a better future.

Thank you for your steadfast commitment to children and your recognition of the value in our work. We are humbled and grateful.

In other news:

 

Click to read the remaining May 2014 Newsletter articles.

 

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