Louisiana CASA Honors “Special” Heroes for Outstanding Efforts in 2009!
LACASA, in partnership with its member programs, once again honored outstanding individuals for their service to children through CASA. Although we value all of the outstanding volunteers, staff, and stakeholders we work with, CASA wanted to present special recognition for those individuals who have gone that extra mile for children.
In 2009, the honorees were recognized at a special CASA Awards Night held at the Vermillionville in Lafayette. There was food, music, and tears of joy as recipients were surprised or overcome at the event.
Judge of the Year- Honorable Judge Charles L. Porter
Speaking at local community organizations, awareness events, or training sessions for CASA volunteers, Honorable Judge Charles L. Porter is an outspoken supporter for CASA of the 16th JDC. He is known for his kindness and the respectful temperance offered to all families that enter his courtroom, CASA volunteers, and various representatives of the court.
Judge Porter was instrumental in developing the CASA program in the 16th JDC. His belief in helping children in need as lead him to be active with implementation of successful pilot programs in the 16th JDC, hosting panels to discuss CINC cases, and multi-disciplinary trainings. Judge Porter is a crusader for the development and health of children in need.
Child Advocate of the Year- Russ Rehm
Whether it is traveling 10 hours to visit a child, compiling information for a youth aging out of foster care, or mentoring new CASA volunteers through the Orleans Parish Court System, this Quiet Hero readily places aside the inconveniences of his own life to assist our most vulnerable assets. Russ Rehm has been a volunteer with New Orleans CASA since 2003. In that time he has had three cases. The first case closed when the child, an infant, found a safe permanent home. The second case, the one that still brings a tear to Russ ended when the youth aged out of the system after Hurricane Katrina. Russ is still actively involved in his third case.
Russ is diligent, persistent, and scrupulous in conducting research and advocating for the best interest of the child on every case that he is assigned. Russ’s second case showed is perseverance. Russ stood by his child in juvenile court as well as family court and kept tabs on him as best as he could when the youth ran away. Russ stayed focused on preparing his child for the world that was waiting after his 18th birthday, compiling a casebook of reference materials. He also discovered a promising apprenticeship opportunity at Café Reconcile, a food-service vocational-training program.
Through his own personal struggles rebuilding his own life, Russ has maintained a high level of advocacy for children in need. After Hurricane Katrina, Russ was living in a trailer, sorting his own affairs, but selflessly contacted his Advocate Supervisor, found the child he was working with pre-storm, and continued his efforts for the child in need.
Executive Director of the Year- Rob Carlisle
Rob Carlisle has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities by effectively managing a 25-member staff to give voice, healing, and security to children in the 10 parishes served by Child Advocacy Services. He meets regularly with the CASA Program Director to discuss any issues that may arise with the program and to provide innovative ideas for volunteer recruitment and retention, increased training for staff, strong relationships with key stakeholders in the community such as OCS and the judicial system. He has been a frontrunner in the development of child abuse resource materials such as Prepared Not Scared: A Parent’s Resource Guide for helping children understand emotions associated with hurricanes; Recognize, React, Report: A community resource for protecting children and preventing child abuse; and SBS 202: Intro to Shaken Baby Syndrome. These resources have been distributed throughout the community.
Additionally, he has worked to host trainings on Child Welfare Law Topics and Serving Older Youth. He is very aware of the problems that face older youth who are aging out of the foster care system, and he has worked diligently with Community Leaders to find ways to assist the youth during transitions. His professionalism, knowledge, and commitment to children and families is very apparent.
Program Staff of the Year- Dana Wolcott
A gifted speaker with a tremendous ability to tailor the CASA message to her audience, Dana Wolcott heightens the community’s awareness of issues facing abused and neglected children and CASA’s role in advocating for the best interest of children.
Dana first came to Youth Service Bureau CASA as a volunteer in 1997. She has served as a powerful voice for nine children on six cases. Following which, she accepted the position of Youth Service Bureau CASA Recruiter/Trainer in 2003. Her firsthand experience as a CASA Volunteer coupled with her diligence in having up to date information contributes greatly to her sincerity and confidence as she heightens the community’s awareness of issues facing abused and neglected children.
An outstanding orator and leader, Dana shepards new volunteers through pre-service training and instills confidence and enthusiasm in them. When Dana leads a group of volunteers through pre-service training, it is necessary to make clear that Dana will not be their Advocate Supervisor once they take a case. Dana also has a wonderful rapport with the stakeholders in the community, and she is always able to line up an impressive slate of guest speakers from the Office of Community Services, the District Attorney’s Office, mental health and substance abuse treatment center, and more for pre-service and in-service training. Dana is a vital component in strengthening CASA’s message and advocates for the betterment of children in need.
Board Director of the Year- Hugh Daschbach
A decade of service with CASA began with a donation on behalf of Hugh Daschbach from his four sons in as a Christmas gift. Their reason for giving this gift simply stated: their desire to share him with someone who would benefit from his love as they had as his children. Hugh’s interest in CASA was sparked with this display of his son’s generosity. Shortly afterwards, Hugh saw an advertisement for CASA volunteers, and inquired about becoming a volunteer. In the spring, Hugh had undergone the training, and was a CASA volunteer. Over 10 years, he has supervised more than five cases serving over 10 children. He has offered countless hours of advocacy for these children and still remains one of the most active volunteers with Child Advocacy Services.
Hugh is still serving, not only as an example to his own children, but as an example of dedication and support focused towards improving the lives of children. During the last year he joined the Board of Directors, and immediately became a leader for CAS. In his first year on the board, he assisted in facilitating the start of the Cottages for CASA campaign by serving on a separate project development committee. He has used his company to help leverage building supplies, contractors, and sponsors to assist in this project getting off the ground. Hugh also volunteers his time for speaking engagements, awareness events, and outreach opportunities.
From a small gesture, Hugh has become a huge asset to CASA.
OCS Staff Member of the Year- William Cezar
William Cezar has a strong desire to help people better themselves and their situations. He is a dedicated worker for the Iberville/West Baton Rouge OCS office. William goes beyond what is expected to provide service for his clients. As an OCS worker, he has heightened the community’s awareness concerning abused and neglected children in Iberville and West Baton Rouge Parishes by informing anyone he meets of the needs for assisting the children who may not be able to live in a safe home. He understands the importance and help of CASA in the assistance of his endeavor to work for the betterment of Louisiana’s abused and neglected children. With this insight, he is bridging the gap between CASA of the 18th JDC and Office of Community Services- ensuring changes and updates are given to CASA of the 18th JDC on cases they are working jointly.
William advocates for the best possible resources available for his clients. Recently, William collaborated with CASA of the 18th JDC on a youth aging out of foster care that met unexpected and tumultuous life events. The youth’s mother was making previsions to take the youth, but the mother passed away two months prior to the youth’s 18th birthday. He worked unwaveringly to assist the youth. Through combined efforts, William was able to assist the youth into adulthood and independence by locating resources benefiting the youth and a stable environment to thrive.
William has been a great communicator to and for CASA of the 18th JDC. He is also an impromptu CASA recruiter, directing interested individuals into learning more about volunteering with CASA of the 18th JDC. William Cezar is an asset and ally to CASA and the community in helping children in need.
Media Professional of the Year- Cathye Davis
Through the professional expertise offered by Cathye Davis of The Radio People in Monroe, CASA has shared its message to thousands of people. Cathye is proof that with a little money and lot of heart there are few limitations on what can be accomplished. The event this past spring,“Stand Up for an Abused Child so They’ll Stand a Chance” where people in the community literally stood for twelve hours to support CASA. Cathye was a key component in the success of the event. Cathye let the NELA CASA’s Public Relations team go on three of her radio stations to promote the event. She also arranged to have two live remotes at the event at no charge. The event got a lot of media attention and was a huge success. We had the support of many local officials, judges, teachers, and of course our dedicated volunteers. Cathye even signed up to “stand” for an hour and support.
Cathye gladly gives of herself and knowledge of her chosen industry to build the support system needed to make CASA work successful. This is no small feat considering the current economic climate and limited public relations budgets. Her support of the annual fall “CASA Community Awareness” event, including the arrangement of a live remote aired from the event location, totaled close to $10,000 in one year. Her work is strengthening the message of CASA in Northeast Louisiana.
Diversity Award- Capital Area CASA
When Capital Area CASA Association began operations in 1992, the training curriculum for CASA volunteers included three hours of instruction on diversity and cultural competency. Because the staff did not feel they had the expertise to train on this topic, guest speakers were asked to present the material. As an organization, that was the extent of knowledge and commitment to cultural competency.
As CASA grew and staff became more knowledgeable about the issues affecting foster children, they learned that a disproportionate number of African American children are in foster care nationwide. While 45% of the population of East Baton Rouge Parish is African American, 90% of the children served by CASA are African American. Capital Area CASA came to understand the importance of the CASA program – staff, board of directors and advocates – becoming more culturally competent in all areas.
Information is often a catalyst for change. An enormous breakthrough occurred in the journey towards cultural competency in 1999. The Casey Family Program invited Capital Area staff to attend an Undoing Racism seminar presented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond in New Orleans. The entire staff attended the seminar and found it to be the most enlightening opportunity we had encountered during our journey.
Several changes were made in the organization as a result of attendance at the Undoing Racism seminar in 1999. To this day, staff meets monthly to discuss relevant issues. For a number of years, they participated in a group called CURES, Collaboratively Undoing Racist Effects in Society, meeting with other foster care professionals every other month to further knowledge in this area. And, prior to Hurricane Katrina, all new staff were required to attend an Undoing Racism seminar because it was felt that the Undoing Racism seminars are so beneficial to anyone committed to a personal journey towards cultural competency. Capital Area CASA wanted volunteer advocates and board of directors to also have an opportunity to attend the seminar and then participate in the monthly discussions. The last seminar was held February 17, 2005 and over fifty people attended. With the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond operational again, and talks have already commenced with them to host another seminar for our staff, board of directors and advocates in 2010.
2011 LACASA Heroes
2010 LACASA Heroes
2008 LACASA Heroes
2007 LACASA Heroes