WINGS Supports CASA Kids

A generous group of women from Mound Valley Baptist Church, located on Highway 10 between Miami and Welch, is supplying CASA of Northeast Oklahoma with go bags for children currently being served. The women’s group is called Women Inspired iN God’s Service or WINGS. They meet regularly to work on service projects helping their church and local communities. After recently hearing about the work and cause of CASA, they decided to get involved and help the children who need it most.

The go bags are segmented out into a variety of demographics. There are bags specifically for newborns and toddlers as well as bags for children who are older. Depending on the age the bag is intended for, items include diapers, blankets, clothing items, toothbrushes, deodorant, small toys, and more.

The idea is to give these precious children something that is their own. They are often removed from a home with nothing other than what they are wearing. These bags are a simple way of providing items that children need as well as a few items every kid would want.

Susan Cleveland – A Heart for Serving

Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) celebrates the advocacy of one of our CASA volunteers. This month, we are highlighting the service of Susan Cleveland. Susan has served as a volunteer advocate in Rogers County for two years.

Cleveland works at RCB Bank in Claremore. Previously, she spent thirteen years working with the Youth with a Mission organization in Mexico. “I can’t see myself not serving in some form,” Cleveland said. She backs that up with her involvement. In addition to volunteering with CASA and actively serving at the First United Methodist Church in Claremore, she serves on the board of the Rogers County Literacy Council and has volunteered at The Equality Center in Tulsa.

When it comes to her CASA service, Cleveland says it’s a continuous learning process. “Trying to truly know what our role is as a CASA volunteer, where our boundaries are, and the fact that we are not DHS or family counselors. I have to maintain my focus on advocating for the child and being on their team,” Cleveland said about the challenge of volunteering with CASA. Like many CASA volunteers, she wants to fix everything right now. CASA work, however, is a slow, arduous process.

The process, however, is where Cleveland finds her reward. Cleveland said the best part of serving is “watching the children grow. Overall, the blessing comes from seeing the difference in the children’s lives when they are in a safe, nurturing environment.”

The more enjoyable aspect of volunteering with CASA is the process of volunteers getting to know the children on their cases. Cleveland grinned while talking about visiting the girl on her case. Essentially, Cleveland simply enters into the world of the child, getting on the floor, on their level, and allowing the child to be a child. In doing so, the children have come to trust and rely on Cleveland.

The best part of volunteering according to Cleveland is “seeing the children flourish. Knowing that they are in a loving home is what it is all about. It’s very fulfilling to know you are impacting a child’s life.”

Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma needs more extraordinary volunteers, like Susan Cleveland, who are willing to serve the most vulnerable children in our community. Like Cleveland, you could volunteer even while having a full-time job. If you are inspired by their story and want to learn more, do not hesitate to call our office at 918-923-7276. There are new volunteer trainings throughout the year so you can start immediately.

Dana and Kathy Crow – A CASA Power Couple

Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) celebrates the advocacy of one of our CASA volunteers. This month, we have the unique opportunity to celebrate the service of Dana and Kathy Crow. Dana and Kathy serve alongside one another as volunteer advocates in Ottawa County.

The Crows have spent their entire lives dedicated to improving the lives of children. Dana was a teacher for 40 years while Kathy has been in the community mental health field for 38 years. They both have an obvious love and passion for working with children, improving their lives, and leading them towards successful lives.

Serving as a CASA volunteer is no walk in the park. In one case the Crows have served on, the children were scattered across the state, some being an hour and a half away. Allocating time to visit each child has been the biggest hurdle in their volunteering. And yet, their efforts are well worth it.

The Crows have seen the fruit of their labor as the children are in the process of reuniting with their mother. In fact, that has been the biggest reward they have experienced. When children go back to their parents and into a safe, loving home, there can be no better outcome.

When asked what they would tell someone considering becoming a CASA volunteer the Crows said, “You can’t find a more rewarding endeavor.” We couldn’t agree more. The work of a CASA is difficult, but changing the trajectory of a child’s life and story is well worth the effort. As an organization, we are lucky to have faithful volunteers like the Crows serving the precious children in our community.

This past weekend, the news reported a child died because they were left in a car for hours. The temperatures are not even up to their summer highs and yet our vehicles can still become deadly for small children. Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma desperately wants everyone to be aware of this danger. Although the majority of our work is done in the courtroom, ultimately, we are advocates for children no matter what dangers and trials face them.

According to the National Safety Council, on average 37 children die in hot cars every year in the United States. Incidents peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when between two and three kids die each week. In 2018, 51 children (an increase from 42 the previous year) died in hot cars. To put things into perspective, only 35 people died in tornadoes that same year in the United States.

“Parents of infants and toddlers – especially those who work outside of the home – are often sleep deprived, stressed out, and distracted,” said Angela Henderson, Executive Director of Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma. “I want to encourage parents to create situational awareness around their vehicles – even when we’re positive that there are no children strapped inside. Those few seconds of certainty could save a life.”

Inside a parked vehicle with the windows rolled up, the temperature inside the vehicle can quickly soar to 20 degrees above the temperature outside the car in just 10 minutes. According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke occurs when a person’s core body temperature rises to 104 degrees. A core body temperature of 107 degrees could result in irreversible organ damage or even death. Young children are especially at risk, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s.

Safe Kids Worldwide produced the ACT Now Toolkit (https://www.safekids.org/take-action-prevent-heatstroke), which offers a number of tips to prevent heatstroke accidents:

  1. Never leave a child alone in a vehicle – not even for a minute while you run inside.
  2. Keep your car doors locked when you are not in the car so that kids don’t gain access to the interior of the car without your knowledge.
  3. Create a reminder by putting something you need in the backseat of the car next to your child – a briefcase, a purse, a cell phone, or a left shoe.
  4. If you walk past a car and see a child alone inside, call 911.
  5. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to make sure you dropped your child off at daycare; develop a plan so that you’ll be alerted if your child is late or is a no-show.

“One of the easiest ways to ensure that your child is safe is to check the backseat of your car before you turn off your vehicle,” said Henderson. “Just like the routine of strapping on your seatbelt before starting the car, you can train yourself to check behind you before you turn off your car. Before you know it, a new habit is formed – one that could save a life.”

Henderson said today’s busy parents need to practice extreme self-care. “We live in a society that is increasingly speeding up and that looks down on parents if they can’t do it all,” she said. “As a society, we need to tune in to the young families around us and ask, ‘How can I help?’”

Henderson suggests members of churches, synagogues, clubs, community organizations or just neighbors look around for young families who need help.

“They may look like they’ve got it all together,” she said, “Offer to help. Babysit one afternoon or evening to give a tired parent some time off. Stop through a drive-thru and order dinner for a family or give them a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Offer to help around the house – give a harried mom a ‘gift certificate’ for one week’s worth of laundry to be washed and folded by you.”

“When we think about what it was like to have little ones running around the house, we remember that along with the obvious joys children bring us, sometimes being a parent is really, really hard,” she said.

CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH CONTINUES WITH PUMP’N PETES’ FUNDRAISER FOR CASA

April is Child Abuse Prevention month nationally, and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) has joined with Pump N Pete’s Corp of Erie on a pledge card fundraiser during April.  Pete’s operates 47 convenience stores and fuel stations in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and the effort will benefit 5 CASA organizations in those same areas CASA of the 31st Judicial District, CASA of the 23rd and Bourbon County CASA in Kansas; Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma and Southwest Missouri Child Advocates.

“Pinwheels for Prevention – Partners for Children” is an easy, stress-free and fun way to help children in foster care.  Pete’s cashiers will ask you to donate and all you do is say YES!  You get to sign a Pinwheel Pledge Card and hang it in the store to commemorate your donation. If you donate $5 or more at one time you get a raffle ticket good for a chance at winning a $25 cash prize in each store and the winners from each store will go on to a GRAND PRIZE DRAWING at the end of April for $250 at the Pete’s Corporate Office in Parsons.

The funds raised are used to recruit, train, prepare and support Advocate Volunteers who are appointed by County Judges to help children who have been abused or neglected and found to be in need of care by the court.  The Advocates partner with the children, speak up for their best interest in court and guide them successfully through their time in foster care.  Once appointed, the CASA is always there for the child until he or she is released from custody.  Funds have also been used in emergencies to pay for athletics, music lessons, summer camp, winter coats, Christmas gifts, adoption gifts, life books, special equipment and special clothing for children in the CASA programs. CASA programs are non-profit and must raise their own funds.

The Pinwheel Fundraiser is in its sixth year and Pete’s Corporation has made it a competition between stores, area managers and district managers, even offering corporate incentives to all employees to do their best for CASA.  From there the managers and employees have gotten very creative and have taken the competition to heart!  All stores do something special or host an event to supplement the fundraiser and many do some truly zany things.  Several managers have taken cream pies to the face if the store reaches a set goal or offered to get dunked in a water tank for extra money; others have thrown a BBQ or pizza party when employees post so many pledge cards.  There were dueling bake sales between stores in the same town; car washes that got drowned by rain but continued anyway; body painting; dance-a-thons; characters greeting customers; lotto winnings donated by employees and customers and public competition to have the most pinwheels on the wall! In the end, CASA throws a luncheon party, awards a trophy and publicly recognizes the top fundraising Pump’n Pete’s Store in each state, both individually and at the following Pump’n Pete’s Corporate meeting at Parsons, KS.

CASA and Pump’n Pete’s invite everyone to join the fun and help unfortunate children at the same time. Children who did nothing wrong but wound up in foster care anyway. Donations to CASA are fully tax deductible and CASA is recognized as a 501(c)(3) charity by the IRS.

Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma Continues to be a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency Organization

Great news! Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma just earned the 2019 Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information. By sharing these metrics, we’re helping the sector move beyond simplistic financial ratios to assess nonprofit progress.

We chose to display quantitative metrics such as Program Goals, Past Results, and Budget to represent how hard Child Advocates is working toward achieving our mission. Organizations and people who support our cause deserve to know their hard-earned dollars are being used in the best possible way. Having the Platinum Seal of Transparency is the best way for our donors to know we are serious about using funds in appropriate ways that further our cause and help children.

We’re proud to use GuideStar Platinum to share our full and complete story with the world. To reach the Platinum level, we added extensive information to our Nonprofit Profile: basic contact and organizational information, in-depth financial information, quantitative information about goals, strategies, and progress toward our mission.