What We Do
Stacey Corzine has embodied the true nature of a CASA volunteer advocate in her 8 years of service at Macon County CASA. With 7 total assigned CASA kiddos during her years of volunteerism, Stacey has assisted in the successful closing of 4 kiddos’ cases, resulting in safe and permanent adoptive homes and independence.
Stacey has been assigned to kiddos of all ages, but some of her most intense cases have involved teens. Her longest standing case saw her assigned to four teenage siblings (17, 14, 13, and 11) back in 2014. Teenagers are difficult; teenagers with trauma are often much more difficult. With many concerns in their lives, in the past 6 years, Stacey has attended innumerable ACRs (Administrative Case Reviews), CFTMs (Child & Family Team Meetings), IEPs (Individualized Education Plan), CIPPs (Clinical Intervention for Placement Preservation), and more. Stacey has fought for these kiddos to have safe placements with biological family, in traditional foster homes, in residential placements and in some cases, to age successfully out of the foster care system into their own homes. Stacey has even accompanied one of her assigned foster teens to interviews with lawyers for a criminal case. For apparent reasons, Stacey Corzine won the 2018 Macon County CASA Volunteer of the Year award.
And although many of these advocacies seem intensified due to the number of assigned children Stacey had, she has continued to go above and beyond her volunteer role as CASA advocate. Stacey has become a part of this particular family of 4 siblings, each one trusting her opinion and her overall advocacy. She has been exactly the consistent presence that each of her assigned foster children has needed in order to know that someone is committed to their best interest first and foremost. For all of these years of service, Macon County CASA and each of her 7 assigned foster kiddos is grateful.
Long time CASA volunteer advocate Ada Owens is truly committed to working her case with the ultimate goal of submitting timely, accurate, fact-based reports to the juvenile advocacy judge every six months at her assigned kiddos’ permanency hearings. Ada is known to never miss a visit, a meeting, or a court hearing as an amazing mainstay for her CASA children. Since becoming a CASA advocate in 2017, Ada Owens has been assigned to 4 CASA foster children; in those cases, she proudly boasts of three children’s closed cases resulting in reunification with rehabilitated biological parents who are now offering safe and permanent homes for their children. Ada regularly communicates with her assigned children and all parents involved in order to find out what they are lacking and to offer necessary community resources for help.
Ada’s court reports contain many relevant details for the judge to gather a full picture of the foster child’s life and the parents’ overall progress. The Juvenile Advocacy judge has even been known to quote Ada’s court reports in open court to recognize occurrences in the case. Ada religiously enters her notes into Optima so she can accurately use her six month’s worth of case information to complete the report.
The foster children who have been assigned to Ada continue to value her presence in their lives even beyond the closure of their case. The entire family has gained an additional friend for their village in their former CASA advocate.
Part of the role of a CASA volunteer advocate is to be committed to continued learning. As a CASA volunteer since 2016, retired pharmacist Mike Heger has been invested to learn right alongside of the needs of his 7 assigned CASA kiddos. As Mike learns of the child’s needs (i.e. substance abuse, domestic violence, anger management), he researches the issue or tendency and uses his new knowledge to inform his recommendations of therapy or rehabilitation. Additionally, Mike shares this research with his Advocate Supervisor, the foster and biological parents, other CASA volunteer advocates, and often times, with the CASA kiddo. Mike’s research truly sets apart his advocacy as the children all feel that Mike is invested in them and the issues in their lives that they share with him. He listens and he takes action! Mike can be found regularly attending the once a month continued education sessions offered by Macon County CASA for all volunteers; these sessions deal with relevant trends in our kiddos’ lives and cases.
Although volunteers must take a 30-hour pre-service training which essentially prepares them for the advocacy of their assigned foster kiddos, the conditions within the foster care system change frequently and new resources in the community are constantly emerging. A desire to continue learning like CASA advocate Mike Heger is vital for the most effective advocacy of our CASA kiddos.
For Mike’s amazing commitment to his assigned CASA children and for other philanthropic work he does in the community, in September 2020, the Kiwanis Club of Decatur Golden K presented him with the Luis V. Amador, M.D. Medallion Award in recognition of his history of extraordinary personal dedication of time and resources to the pursuit of charitable, benevolent and community service activities consistent with the objectives of Kiwanis.
Since no experience of the child welfare system is necessary to become a CASA volunteer advocate, it is essential that CASA offer pre-service training that fully equips each volunteer with the knowledge and confidence to eventually advocate for their assigned foster children. Macon County CASA Advocate Supervisor & Volunteer Trainer Kim Perkins thoroughly prepares volunteers for all they will need to know in working on a case. And, Program Director, Robert Burries, supervises CASA volunteer training ensuring our preparation and process produces volunteers who are confident to execute their advocate role; he also seeks to revise training when necessary for the most efficient results.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim taught our 6 week hybrid training with one class per week in person and homework online prior to the next in class session. However, with less than a week’s notice, CASA had to quickly make arrangements to adjust to all online volunteer training for the first time ever! Kim and the class of 8 volunteers did not skip a beat.
Educating volunteers strictly online has also proven to have a few challenges, but Kim offers amazing customer service with all difficulties including technical needs. As the trainer, she remains flexible and accommodating to ensure that any community member who desires to take our CASA volunteer training is successful!
Macon County CASA has continued to offer the remainder of the 2020 training online with each training session becoming ever better. Community members appreciate the safety and flexibility that the all online CASA volunteer training offers. At the end of each 6 week training, Judge Thomas Little swears in our volunteers in a virtual swear in naming them official court appointed special advocates.
Photos courtesy of Teran Elaine Photography.