“2020 certainly had something in store for us, but it’s not quite what we imagined,” states Kate Blair, executive director. COVID-19 has altered how we conduct business, interact socially, travel, and much more. Although how we advocate for children who have experienced abuse and neglect has changed, it has not ceased. Fortunately, our staff, volunteers, and community partners have risen to the occasion to virtually advocate and continually fight for the best interests of children in foster care. As a result of these changes we have become masters at the art of zoom, held the first completely virtual volunteer training, and even polished up our Google suite knowledge to better support our volunteers and the mission of the organization.
CASA volunteers- the real superheroes- have held countless phone calls, video chats, and conferences to their children, parents, foster caregivers, attorneys, and more to ensure the children’s needs are being met during this pandemic. So far volunteers have logged over 2,675 hours since January 2020, with a value of $53,000. Although many business operations have shifted or ceased, the work of Savannah/Chatham CASA has not. Our progress is attributed to dedicated community volunteers who serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for our most vulnerable population, children who have experience abuse or neglect.
Please take a look at our progress and see what else we’ve been up to:
To our fellow community members, please know that during this time of mourning, anger and frustration, erupting due to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, Savannah/Chatham CASA stands with our black staff, volunteers, families and children. We are deeply saddened by the continuation of violence against the black community and we demand justice for all who have experienced harm.
Speaking out against injustice aligns with the mission of CASA. We cannot properly advocate for our children if we do not understand the long history of structural and institutionalized racism that has resulted in a disproportionate number of black families within the child welfare system. In addition, research shows that black families experience higher rates of poverty, have less access to healthcare and mental health resources, and suffer from higher levels of generational and societal trauma. These cumulative hindrances impact the family unit, leading towards stress, abuse, and neglect.
In Chatham County, 65% of those in foster care are black, despite only 47% of our population being black.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with those who were able to show their solidarity at Sunday’s demonstration to demand better for our community. We are encouraged by Mayor Johnson’s initiative to create an equity taskforce. We at Savannah/Chatham CASA will follow his lead and ensure that we are addressing inequities in our sphere of influence as well.
To do our part, our organization is committed to:
Our actions are long overdue. Savannah/Chatham CASA will not stop until EVERY child who has experienced abuse or neglect is given the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.
To see the full list of the CASA team who has signed this pledge, visit our page: Commitment to Racial Equity
During these uncertain times, Savannah/Chatham CASA is taking every precaution to assist in flattening the curve of the Coronavirus. Our organization serves a population which consists of children, volunteers, and foster families who may be at risk due to age, health concerns, etc. For this reason, we have taken the following precautions until further notice:
Please remember that many of the families in our community will be hit hard by the impact of the Coronavirus. Things such as reduced work hours, lay-offs, increased medical expenses, lack of child care, and much more will make 2020 a very difficult year for many working hard to be reunified with their children. Please consider providing support to families in crisis by supporting organizations that are providing needed services such as soup kitchens, food pantries, child care providers, housing assistance providers, etc. Join the Be the Good- Savannah Facebook page to stay apprised of community needs.
Please join with the Savannah/Chatham CASA staff and practice social distancing. This is not only encouraged for your well-being but for the well-being of those more vulnerable around you.
Let's resist fear and promote love. We are in this together.
Kate Blair, Executive Director
.As the world faces the pandemic of COVID-19 many communities are exercising social distancing and find themselves isolated at home, away from peers, friends, work, school, and recreational activities. Here are a few suggestions from Savannah/Chatham CASA that encourage wellness and community connections while socially distant during the coronavirus crisis.
1.Become a CASA
Sign up to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer by visiting www.savannahcasa.org/learnmore.
Use Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts to video chat with friends and family while social distancing.
Use this time to declutter and tackle that organization project in your home.
Now is the time to sit back and catch up on binge-worthy television shows and series.
Pick out a good book and dedicate time to read it daily. Start a book club with a few of your friends and discuss your latest reads.
Send a letter to your pen pal the old school way- with pen, paper, and postage.
Put on some music and get dancing! Find an activity that you enjoy and do it during the day.
Evaluate your personal and professional goals and reset them if needed.
9.Try Something New
That thing that you’ve always wanted to do- do it now.
That’s right! Do absolutely nothing. Just be.
On Monday, August 5th, we celebrated the swear in of our 100th ACTIVE VOLUNTEER! During Savannah/Chatham CASA's 28 years of operation we have sworn in hundreds of volunteers but we have remained under the 100 active volunteers threshold due to attrition. As any volunteer driven organization experiences, volunteers leave our program for a number of reasons such as a new job, moving to a new community, life changes. etc. But in 2019, the Savannah/Chatham CASA staff rededicated themselves to retaining and training more volunteers than ever before. In just 8 short months, we have sworn in 36 new volunteers while only having 7 volunteers leave the program.
Due to the tireless efforts of staff and the renewed commitment of our wonderful volunteers, we now have 104 active volunteers. As the staff and volunteers work to reach our goal of serving 100 percent of children in foster care by 2021, recruitment of new volunteers will remain a priority. Currently, we serve 48 percent of the children in care, so we will need to nearly double our number of volunteers to ensure that every child experiencing foster care has a Court Appointed Special Advocate in their corner.
We want to welcome the newest group of CASA volunteers - Oliver Braun, Terry Danhof, Debra DeMilto, DeSharon Frazier, Carol Gerrin, Katie Griffith, Jane Levy, Jennifer McCarthy, Linda Johnson, and Gamu Postell.
And DeSharon Frazier became our 100th active volunteer!
A special thank you to Commissioner Jay Jones and DFCS Director, Shawn Brown, and many attorneys who came out to support our newest CASA volunteers.
Check out the pictures below from our swear in.