We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
- Winston Churchill
Ready to give? Become a CASA.
Click here to RSVP to our next Information Session on
2/23/19 at 11am
table of contents
4 Letter from the Executive Director
5 Celebrating 30 Years
6 The First 6 Months : FY19
7 Holiday Happiness
8 Making Modern Slavery History
10 Poverty in America
12 Volunteer Spotlight
14 Run for the Children 2019
16 What We're Loving
17 Inspiration for You
As we enter into our 30th year here at Fairfax CASA, we are honored and humbled by the dedicated founders, volunteers, board members, and supporters who came before us. Throughout 2019 we will be sharing stories from our history, and stories from today to showcase the growth Fairfax CASA has experienced over the last 30 years. From our first case in January 1989, to today, our fierce and unwavering CASAs have advocated for the best interests of over 7,000 of Fairfax County's most vulnerable children. Here is a snippet of our origin as told by the "Mother of Fairfax CASA," The Honorable Judge Jane Delbridge, during a speech in 1999:
celebrating our 30th year
"The seed was planted, and I was determined to see it grow."
Letter from the executive director
"I was first appointed to the Fairfax County Juvenile Court in March 1983. Making decisions about the children who came before our Court due to abuse and neglect was the most difficult part of my job. I often wondered if I really knew or understood the full story behind each case so that I could faithfully rule in the child's best interest. While at a national judicial conference in 1987, I first heard of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program and how it was helping judges make the most informed rulings about safe and permanent placement of the abused children who came before the courts. I connected with the feelings of the Seattle judge who first envisioned the CASA program whereby citizens from the community would be recruited and trained to serve in the role of a special advocate for children whose futures are determined in the Court system. The seed was planted and I was determined to see it grow. I brought this new idea back to my colleagues on the bench, and the rest is truly history."
1989 to 2019 : Our Origins
Happy 2019! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and that this year is off to a good start for you.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to our annual appeal. Thanks to the generosity of our community, we exceeded our 2019 goal. From Giving Tuesday to New Year’s Day, we raised just over $100,000—our most successful annual appeal to date. Thank you.
I would also like to publicly thank St. Mark’s Catholic Church, for donating nearly 50 gift cards (worth more than $1,400) that were provided to youth in foster care. Each year St. Mark’s congregation provides this generous donation to our program. Thank you, St. Mark’s! I would also like to thank Stockings from Karen, for donating 15 stockings for girls 13-18 years old who are in foster care. Additionally, we received many donations from individuals of gift cards for youth in foster care. The community always rallies around our children and does so much to better their holidays. Thank you.
This first newsletter of 2019 is jam-packed with information. We are already thinking about our big race in April—our 9th Run for the Children! See page 14 for more information about the race, including how to register and how to be a sponsor!
2019 marks Fairfax CASA’s 30th year of serving Fairfax County’s most vulnerable children. We are planning on celebrating in many ways this year—expect more information and announcements in the near future.
January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Northern Virginia and our Commonwealth are, unfortunately, areas that have been impacted by both modern day slavery and sex trafficking. See page 8 for some information on this very real concern. The more we learn, the more we know and the better we can identify victims and help them escape the horrors of being trafficked.
Our next class of volunteers will begin classes in January and we are very excited to welcome them to CASA.
Enjoy the snow (let’s hope for more!) and the winter calm.
Our impact thus far in FY19
...have been served by 117 CASAs.
54 cases have been closed.
Our volunteers worked 8,032 hours on their cases.
"Breanna* wanted to get something for her 'foster sister' for her birthday which was on 12/25. She found a pink, very soft bathrobe and could not wait to give it to her, and as soon as we got home she rushed upstairs to give it to her. Her sister loved it."
--Marguerite and Steven R.
They made 1,579 face-to-face visits.
"One of my kids got a keychain - to use with the key to his new home with a family member."
Fairfax CASA has opened 48 new cases.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality .
Each holiday season, thanks to the generosity of donors, Fairfax CASA is able to provide gift cards to the children we serve for them to choose a holiday gift that means something to them. Here are a few stories of the joy that was created this past holiday season as told by our CASAs.
...from 148 families...
The first 6 months
"The generous Amazon gift card CASA provided to Andrew* at the holidays will be used for college necessities this fall. Andrew originally set his sights on community college, but was persuaded to apply to 4 year programs. Now, he has been accepted to multiple universities, including GMU!"
"Watching my two boys shop together was such fun. They were running from section to section of the store, calling to each other to look at something. We stopped for a drink and a pet store visit afterward. One of the best Christmas memories."
making modern slavery history
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. First recognized in December of 2010 by President Obama, he noted, “Human trafficking is a global travesty that takes many forms. Whether forced labor or sexual trafficking, child soldiering or involuntary domestic servitude, these abuses are an affront to our national conscience, and to our values as Americans and human beings. There is no one type of victim -- men and women, adults and children are all vulnerable. From every corner of our Nation to every part of the globe, we must stand firm in defense of freedom and bear witness for those exploited by modern slavery.” Back in 2010, the idea of modern day slavery and human trafficking here in the United States was a difficult concept for the average person to understand and accept. Over the last 8 years, however, the horrors of human trafficking have often headlined the mainstream news, with Virginia being recognized as a state with high numbers of human trafficking caes and Northern Virginia as a hotbed of this horrifying reality for too many vulnerable adults and children.
According to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking (www.polarisproject.org), there is no official estimate of the total number of human trafficking victims in the U.S. Polaris estimates that the total number of victims nationally reaches into the hundreds of thousands when estimates of both adults and minors and sex trafficking and labor trafficking are aggregated.
In 2017, an estimated 1 out of 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims. Of those, 88% were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2018, 98 Virginia Victims made contact with the hotline, 22 of whom were under the age of 18. At Fairfax CASA, we have witnessed the impact of both sex trafficking and human trafficking on both child and adult victims in our cases.
Learning to recognize the signs of trafficking (https://polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/recognize-signs) is a key in healing and helping victims. Victims come from all walks of life, from all demographics, all financial backgrounds. The common denominator is usually that the victim was vulnerable. The trafficker preys on the vulnerability, providing attention, affection, empathy and supports, luring the victim into a situation that she/he cannot get out of on their own. The trafficker can use drugs, violence, and threats to keep the youth under his or her control.
As we recognize January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, let us all be more informed about this horrible reality. Together, and with the knowledge, we can extend compassion and potentially help someone who is caught in this nightmare. If you see something that doesn’t look right—if you notice something that just feels off—make a call. In an emergency, always call 911. You can also call the US tip line, 1-888-373-7888 staffed by the Polaris Project or the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative 703-634-6061 (https://www.novahti.com/).
January is also Poverty in America Awareness Month. In the context of our work at CASA, poverty is a far too often a risk factor for the occurence of abuse or neglect. Here, we look to explore and understand the link between poverty and child maltreatment and how we can do better for the children in our community.
Facets, a local non-proft dedicated to helping those in need in our community, has a wonderfully compiled list of area services to help struggling families in need. Check it out here.
This scholarly article succinctly links homelessness caused by poverty to specific factors that would result in Child Protective Services involvement in a family's experience. From housing instability and uncleanliness to untreated illness and lack of food, factors caused by poverty all too often lead to CPS involvement. But how can we do better for families at risk?
Mapping Poverty in America
Resources in our community
America is the richest country in the world, but it also has one of the biggest divides between rich and poor. What can a zip code reveal about inequality?
Poverty is a complex and complicated issue that cannot be solved by any one person. But there are ways that you can help alleviate the stresses it creates in our community and build better supports for families and therefore, better supports for children.
How do we help children?
Poverty in America
Once vulnerable families are equipped with the right resources to help lift them out of poverty, what is the best thing we can do for their children? Educate them. Time and time again, furthering a child's education is consistently proven to be the best way in which a child can overcome poverty in his/her life. This article is a great tool to equip ourselves to empower these children in the classroom to take them from poverty to success.
Ashleigh: What has been your favorite moment as a CASA so far?
Kurt: That exact moment when I saw grandparents meeting their grandson, my CASA kid, for the very first time, when he was 14 months old. They'll be adopting him, which will unite him with his 7 year old brother whom they previously adopted, and he will have safe, and secure permanency with family, our main CASA goal. Especially since I'm a grandparent too!
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
Ashleigh: What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer?
Kurt: Please do! Your next step is to attend an information session and find out more, so get to it. The next one is Saturday, February 23 from 11:00am-12:00pm at the Fairfax CASA office. Then you can decide if it's right for you, and if you're right for it. I hope so, because the children need us. Meanwhile, register and come on out for the Run for the Children on 4/27/19 to get a flavor of what I talked about above.
Kurt being sworn into CASA service by The Honorable Judge Sotelo in June 2018
Ashleigh: All of us on staff call you our most enthusiastic race ambassador – when did you start participating in the Run for the Children? How many years have you been a runner? What kept bringing you back to us each race day?
Kurt: I started running in earnest in 2011, with a preference for runs in support of any charity. I have been doing the CASA run for the past 6 years, starting in 2013. Actually my first was in the Henrico County CASA and Chesterfield-Colonial Heights CASA "Superhero 5K" down in Richmond, VA on 4/27/13. I was in town for the NASCAR race and wanted to do a run that morning, and there it was. One week later, on 5/4/13, I ran my first Fairfax CASA Run for the Children 8K. I did the Richmond / Fairfax CASA doubleheader runs again in 2014, and then again in 2015! I kept on running the Fairfax run in 2016, 2017, and 2018. What kept me coming back is foremost the cause - the kids - along with the passion and enthusiasm I see in both the pre and post race activities. Always a great shirt! And the nice 8K course (not a lot of 8Ks around). The race logistics are smooth too.
Ashleigh: What eventually led you to decide to make the jump from race runner to becoming a CASA?
Kurt: First off, I'm still a runner and I look forward to running in the Fairfax CASA Run for the Children for the 7th time on 4/27/19!! I just hope my wife Kimberly doesn't wear me out when she leads the race warm up this year! I retired at the end of 2017 and wanted to volunteer to use my time, energy and skills to benefit our community. CASA was a primary consideration, given my awareness from doing the runs, and my enjoyment in working with kids, including as a former baseball and soccer coach and Scouter. The work of a CASA not only benefits the children, and their family, but also the community by direct extension. And not much could be more challenging, and rewarding, than being a CASA for an abused or neglected child.
This issue, we are excited to chat with our CASA, Kurt Doehnert. As a CASA, Kurt has hit the ground running, taking on 2 cases serving 2 youth since his swearing in during June 2018, but he has been on the run, so to speak, for CASA much longer than just 7 months. Here's our conversation with Kurt!
Kurt running in the 5th annual Fairfax Run for the Children in 2015
what we're loving
Partner with Us!
Second Story, formerly known as Alternative House, a local shelter for at risk youth, has started producing their own podcast series dedicated to telling the stories of individuals struggling through hardship, who change their narrative to write a new story. Staff member Ashleigh Conrad has been binging on these local stories of resilience, finding hope and inspiration along the way. Listen here!
be a hero. run for a child.
Each year, it takes a team of heroes that step up in a variety of ways to help make race day a success. We have many different levels of sponsorship available with fantastic opportunities for exposure for our partners. We also are in need of prizes for our participants and raffle! Want to donate tickets, gift cards, or other fun prizes? Click here to contact our race director about becoming a partner with us!
Save the date for our 9th annual 8K & 3K on April 27, 2019. Check out how you can get involved below!
Debuting as the upcoming Fairfax CASA book club feature, Nadine Burke Harris's book, The Deepest Well, is a highly engaging, provocative, and a rousing wake up call to the lifelong impact of childhood trauma. This deep dive into ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, will be key to anyone looking to understand the tremendous impact of childhood trauma on our biological health.
Join with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to create your own league of superheroes to run or walk the race! Whether you're looking for your new PR and want a challenge with out 8K race, or just want to move it, move it for fun on the 3K course, we have an option for everyone! Click here to register!
Our volunteers are crucial to a successful event each year. We have many different options for helping out. To see all the opportunities and to sign up, click here!
Run or Walk!
Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together.