Volunteer Spotlight – Bill Shine

Meet Bill!

Bill Shine is one of our outstanding male volunteers! He grew up in Bartlesville and has made Tulsa home for most of his adult life. Professionally, he leads a team of software developers at a local oil and gas company. He and his wife, Jami, have a shared passion for CASA. Jami works for QuikTrip Corporation and is a member of our Board of Directors. She was already passionate about CASA’s mission because of seeing the impact it made in Bill’s life, so when approached about volunteering to serve on our Board it was naturally a great fit!

Bill describes himself as being stubborn, meaning-based, and loved. He has a 21 year old “little brother” whom he met 14 years ago through Big Brothers, Big Sisters. He has also worked with teens in local churches, and has spent a lot of time serving (and eating taco’s with) children in an orphan ministry in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Throughout the years working with orphans in a foreign country, people would sometimes pose the question “can’t you just help kids right where you live?” When Bill heard about CASA, it seemed like a great opportunity to be part of the solution here in his hometown. Watching a loved one struggle through the court system made him wonder how confusing it must be for both parents and children alike, and prompted him to take the next step in pursing CASA certification.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

I like to be a connector of people and an encourager. As a CASA, I get a chance to help change the trajectory of an entire family line. Our focus is on the children, but the impact on the children’s parents/caregivers can be just as powerful. Abuse and neglect are often a legacy handed down from generation to generation, and sometimes all we need is a nudge in the right direction.

Based off the case load alone, the traditional role players in our foster care system rarely have the time they need to pay close attention to an individual child’s true needs. CASAs are generally only assigned one case at a time, so we can often see small but important things that might get missed otherwise.

Unfortunately, my CASA child has lived in institutional settings for 6 years. He rarely gets to go outside, play with animals, or go on trips. One of the unintended positive outcomes of COVID-19 has been our increased time on Zoom calls. He loves the technology! I get to walk him around my home and take him through parks and downtown areas while we talk. He loves it when I set our tiny dog up on the desk!

At the end of the day, I care most about the things that will matter when my life here is over. The greatest gift I was given in this life were people who loved me unconditionally and gave their time to help me grow. If I can return a small measure of that gift, it will have meant something.

A Note from his Advocate Manager

Over the last year and a half, I’ve not only gotten to know Bill as an advocate, but more importantly as a person. Bill is kind and caring, patient and understanding; all around a great advocate to have in our program. When I assigned him to his case in February of 2019, I was a little nervous due to the nature of the case and the child involved. But over time, Bill really handled his case with respect and tenacity. Like clockwork, he visited his child once a week, even if only for 15 minutes when the child was placed two hours away. Because of this child’s circumstances, Bill learned quickly he’d have to get on this child’s level, in order to really understand him not only as a child, but as a person. Truly, you don’t see that often with advocates.

I recently learned from DHS that Bill was one of the main reasons they gunned to put this child into a placement that would really help his progress. DHS stated that without Bill and his tenacity, this child wouldn’t be where he is today getting the help he needs. Of course as an advocate manager, that’s so great to hear! It really is a privilege to work with Bill, and see his advocacy grow for a child who desperately needs it. It’s not hard for me to say Bill is a great guy, and an even greater CASA, and our program is lucky to have him! – Kristen Dake

Volunteer Spotlight – Jodi Pass

Meet Jodi!

Jodi Pass has been a Court Appointed Special Advocate with Tulsa CASA for almost one year. Previously a CASA volunteer in Texas 20 years ago, Jodi kept seeing the CASA logo in the window of our office after moving to Tulsa and thought about how rewarding it would be to become a CASA again. She was already looking for an organization to volunteer with that supported children in the community, and we believe it was meant to be!

Originally from Chicago, Jodi still has close family there. Her family is a bit spread out, with siblings and nieces living in San Antonio, Denver, Wichita, and Bartlesville. Jodi loves to be outdoors and she enjoys activities like hiking, biking, running, kayaking, and boating in her spare time.

A little known fact about Jodi is that she volunteered in the Peace Corps and served in Ethiopia! She also volunteers at the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, gives blood/platelets several times a year, and is involved in Moms Demand Action, an organization that works to help prevent gun violence.

Professionally, Jodi works for an education non-profit called City Year. She manages a team of AmeriCorps members who are tutors, mentors, and role models to support TPS students in their course performance, attendance, and Social Emotional Development.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

The first time my CASA child hugged me, it made me feel like she finally knew (and truly believed) that I was really there for her. The most fulfilling aspect of the work is helping to ensure that my CASA child’s needs are being met and knowing that she has another important adult in her corner that cares about her well-being.

I take my role very seriously and it’s important to me that everyone on the case does everything we can to support her. Visiting with my CASA child is my top priority. My visits with her have been limited since COVID-19 precautions took effect and those are my favorite part of being a CASA, so we are looking forward to starting porch visits soon!

There are so many hardworking and dedicated people and families in Tulsa, but unfortunately, there are also a lot of families that are struggling. CASA helps advocate for children that are thrust into the foster care system, and CASA volunteers ensure that their physical, emotional, and academic needs are being met.

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Jodi is such a joy to work with! She puts so much so much thought, time and effort into the child she serves, it is unreal. Despite only being a CASA since October 2019, she is a great example of how to be a compassionate advocate.

Her case is not simple and involves many variables, but she continues to be there for her kiddo despite the many barriers. She always keeps me updated, and I am so grateful she is serving the children in our community! – Chloe Baldwin

Volunteer Spotlight – Sharon Clark

Meet Sharon!

Sharon Clark in one of our newer advocates, who has made a big impact on the family she serves and amongst our staff! Sharon was born in the Caribbean and has lived in Tulsa County for 1 year. Upon moving to Tulsa, Sharon saw CASA billboards, heard our ads on the radio, and was compelled to get involved with CASA as it was a good fit for her. Sharon attended a Lunch and Learn in September 2019 and completed her training in October with the hopes to make a difference in the outcome of a case.

Most of Sharon’s family still lives on the East Coast but her son, daughter-in-law and one grandson are local in Oklahoma, as well as some of her sons’ in-law’s. Sharon has 2 other sons and 7 grandchildren back east. She also has her Woodlake Church family here in Tulsa, and a granddog named Moose. Through her time living on the East Coast and since moving to Tulsa, Sharon has been involved in a variety of community work such as Reading Partners, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Advocacy, First Connection Program, Patient & Community Outreach, cancer support groups, singles groups, and she leads a small group of high school girls at Woodlake Church.

Sharon has been medically disabled from Multiple Myeloma (Blood Cancer) since 2015. Prior to her diagnosis, she worked as a Licensed Insurance Agent and holds a BS in Behavioral Science and an MS in Administration of Justice from Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware. While attending treatments for Multiple Myeloma and volunteering with her church and other organizations, you can see why Sharon is such a special volunteer to us – she never misses a beat with her CASA case. When her name was nominated for the Volunteer Spotlight for this month, it was a unanimous decision from our staff! When she has extra spare time, Sharon loves traveling, reading, writing, cooking, listening to music, watching movies, and advocating for better benefits for cancer patients.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

I enjoy the camaraderie among the Safe Babies Court Team to allow for the best outcome. I feel privileged to know that the Judge values the input from CASA and the difference we can make in the outcome of a case. CASA offers the opportunity to have extended objective scrutiny and oversight of all involved in the case to be able to reach the best outcome for the child. There is more opportunity to observe and objectively see and interview all parties and aspects of the case more frequently than the DHS worker is able, further providing documentation for the judge to make a unified decision.

My current responsibilities in a day for CASA usually begins with checking in with my Advocate Manager, communicating with DHS to get their updates, contacting the natural parents to offer any support or address their treatment plan, and calling or video chatting with the foster parents and child. My favorite moments are when I see or video chat with the kiddo on my case and how happy she is. I love watching all the milestones she reaches and when she hears my voice or sees my face, she smiles and tries to grab the phone!

It is very rewarding to know that any contribution to our community as a volunteer will only better our lives and the community we serve and live in. Find whatever you are passionate about and get involved in something that will make a difference in other’s lives, the community, and your own life. Just Do It! Make a difference!

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Sharon has been on her case since December 2019. She has truly shown what it means to be a CASA in that time. Any hurdle she comes across, both personally and in the case, she remains diligent and ensures her kiddo is taken care of!

She has worked persistently to build a relationship with the natural parents and continues to support them even when things are difficult. Her efforts are always in the best interest of her kiddo. She remains unbiased and will admit when she is having a hard time with the case. I am so grateful to have Sharon as a CASA advocate! – Kelsey Dildy

Volunteer Spotlight – Elizabeth Black

Meet Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Black got involved with Tulsa CASA after meeting our Training & Outreach Manager at a BOK Financial event for the Tulsa Area United Way. She has always thought about providing foster care, but was unsure how to get involved or if it would be a good fit with her current family and work demands. After the BOK event, she immediately signed up for our next CASA training session and feels it has been a perfect fit!

Elizabeth is a Quantitative Credit Risk Analyst for BOK Financial in Tulsa. Before returning to Tulsa in 2019, she spent almost 10 years teaching and working with children in STEM education programs before having children of her own. In addition to working with Tulsa CASA, Elizabeth hopes to get more involved with the STEM programs growing in and around Tulsa in the coming years.

Elizabeth is one of nine children and growing up as an eldest sibling, she spent a lot of time taking care of younger siblings as well as other children like neighbors and cousins. She never imagined she would have children herself, but now she and her husband Carl have 3 children and 2 dogs. In her spare time she likes to play golf, read, hike, and play video games with her kids. Fun fact: She is undefeated in Mario Kart! For now…

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

I have truly enjoyed being surrounded by people who are as passionate about a cause as I am. We are all working together to provide Tulsa children with a better future. This common goal brings a lot of energy and satisfaction to the work being done – even if the path can get pretty murky at times.

I regularly send texts and emails with those involved on the case – following up on home visits, ensuring services are being attended, checking in on the kids’ daily progress, and assisting the recently reunited family in identifying and accessing resources as they are needed. Children with a CASA can count on an advocate who objectively fights for their best interests through every change and challenge they face together. Tulsa children are not alone, because of Tulsa CASA’s.

On my current case, there were some very uncertain times and some very unexpected twists and turns. In less than 6 months, we moved from almost certain adoption to a sudden new placement and trial reunification. I will never forget the day I got the text that my CASA kids were starting trial reunification. I cried. Tears are not usually welcome, but these were tears of joy! My CASA kids were going home… and I helped make that happen.

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Elizabeth has come into a case just before the case went to trial and quickly realized there were some significant biases going on with different parties in the case. When Elizabeth brought these issues to the attention of the Court, the case changed drastically. The children are now in trial reunification!

Elizabeth single-handedly and with great humility changed the entire outcome of this case for this family. She did so with grace, care, and an immense amount of active listening to every party involved. She is such a blessing to CASA, and I am deeply grateful for the time, energy, and effort she has put into making a difference in the lives of these children. – Cheryl Wright

Volunteer Spotlight – Maureen Copp

Meet Maureen!

Maureen Copp and her husband John have lived in Tulsa for 25 of the past 28 years. In her free time, Maureen enjoys traveling with her husband and children when possible. She and John have four adult children who live in Tulsa, Hong Kong, Chicago and New York City. She also enjoys staying active through hiking, biking and exercising, doing crossword puzzles, cooking, and reading. A little known fact about Maureen is that she taught French for a few years!

Maureen got involved with Tulsa CASA in 2018. She has done a variety of other community work in the Tulsa area, including Reading Partners, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Charities, St. Bernard Catholic and Bishop Kelley Advisory Council. She and her husband had been foster parents and Maureen was missing the work they did advocating for the children in their home. CASA was a good avenue for her to continue that mission but with a commitment that better fit their current situation. Maureen currently works with our Safe Babies Court Team, advocating for children aged 0-3.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

I like being part of such a caring, capable, and supportive team! CASA and SBCT are truly devoted to finding resources and services that help build strong families and protect children. CASA builds a network of advocates who are looking out for the best interest of children as they navigate the complex child welfare system, and who also want to end the cycle of abuse and neglect in Tulsa.

My work as a CASA varies from calls with DHS and families, to staffings and court hearings, but the best responsibility is meeting with the child. My favorite moments on a case are when I can witness a child reach their developmental milestones and build healthy and loving bonds!

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Maureen is a joy!  She has developed such a close relationship with her CASA child and the foster family through her advocacy efforts.  I always look forward to reading Maureen’s monthly Optima entries detailing her visits, because she shares her interactions with the child in a way that makes me feel as if I am right there with them.

Every milestone, every new step in the child’s life, Maureen is there to celebrate and share this beautiful child’s story. Maureen has helped expedite the adoption process when it was in danger of getting lost in the system. She is a phenomenal CASA advocate!

Volunteer Spotlight – Heather Streich

 

Meet Heather!

Heather Streich has lived in Tulsa for 26 years. She and her husband have been married for almost 27 years, and they have three children. Their oldest son just graduated from OSU, their 20-year-old son plays basketball at UCO, and their daughter is a junior at Jenks High School. They have a 12-year-old lab named Frisco and since the whole family is all under one roof for the time being due to COVID-19, they also have their son’s 1-year-old golden doodle, Brodie.

Heather is mostly a stay-at-home mom, and used to be a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She currently does premarital counseling for her church at First Baptist Tulsa. Aside from CASA, she has been involved in many areas of volunteerism. Heather and her husband have fostered six children, and participate in various activities within their church. Heather has been the chair for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk and also does community work with Unite My City.

In her free time, Heather enjoys playing tennis and organizing friends for supper. She got involved with CASA when a friend mentioned that they should attend a Tulsa CASA Lunch and Learn, because their kids were too old to need them as much anymore. She completed training in June 2019 and started on her first case in July. Heather works with our Safe Babies Court Team, ensuring the needs of children aged 0-3 are met expeditiously by the court system.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

Connecting with the kids and finding practical ways to help. Recently, I brought one of the boys’ bikes home to have my husband fix the chain. The boys I see love stories so I enjoy digging through my kids’ old books and sharing stories I used to read to them with my CASA kids.

I love when I see the children at court and they run up and practically tackle me, jumping in my arms. I am hoping the children will move from temporary to permanent placement with their mother this month.

CASA offers Tulsa a chance for very different people to get to know each other and learn to work together. In turn, we find out that we have a lot more in common than it appears. Find something that you enjoy and jump in to volunteer!

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Heather started her journey with CASA in July of 2019 and has been on the same case since then. She has developed a bond with not only the kiddos on her case but the mother as well. Heather is constantly in contact with the family, has assisted them through good and bad times, and fights for what is in the children’s best interest.

The impact Heather is making on her case is monumental and these kids are able to thrive because of her.  It is such a pleasure to get to work with Heather and she is an asset to our program. I feel so blessed that I get to be her advocate manager and witness the difference she is making in this world! – Kaitlin Brasher

April Anniversaries

Happy Anniversary month to our April CASAs! Thank you for giving children in Tulsa County a voice and making sure their best interest is heard.

As our staff works from home, our volunteers do as well! They are on FaceTime calls with their CASA kiddos, checking in with service providers, and making sure the families have everything they need during this time of uncertainty. We’re feeling extra thankful for them this month!

 

Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Help us bring awareness to child abuse and neglect by using our profile picture frame on Facebook and wearing a virtual blue ribbon (in the spirit of social distancing!) 💙💙💙

Click here to add our frame to your Facebook profile picture during the month of April

According to Oklahoma Human Services, 2,849 children in Tulsa County were confirmed to be victims of child abuse and/or neglect last year. Can you be their voice? #ChangeAChildsStory#STOPChildAbuse

Tulsa CASA COVID-19 Response

In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, children and families are struggling to make it through each day, one day at a time. Many of our families, already engaged with the child welfare system prior to COVID-19, will have an even more difficult time than the average family.

Fortunately, CASA volunteers can still be strong supporters and advocates for the children they are appointed to and their families, while still observing social distancing and self-quarantining protocols.

As of March 18, Tulsa CASA, Inc. has suspended all in-person visitations, though virtual visits are encouraged to provide consistency and support to CASA children during this time of uncertainty.

The Tulsa CASA Inc. office and building are closed until further notice. Staff is working remotely from their homes. All forms of communication will be over phone or email until the office is reopened.

We have cancelled all in-service trainings for current advocates through April 30, 2020 and all pre-service training for new volunteers has been moved to a completely online/virtual meeting format.

While advocates are unable to visit with children and families in person, Skype or FaceTime, email, texting or calling are great ways to stay in touch. Volunteers are encouraged to make weekly check-in calls to caregivers and children, and inquire about things such as . . .

  • Health of all household members — physical and mental
  • How are school/distance learning assignments being completed? What was sent by the district/teacher? Is the teacher available via email or help, if needed? How can the CASA assist virtually?
  • What is the family doing to keep busy daily?
  • Is anyone in the household still working outside of the home?
  • Has the child/children had any issues behaviorally since being home from school?
  • If the child’s visitation has been suspended due to COVID-19, have they been able to stay in touch with their parents/sibling(s) by phone?
  • Is the household having any other challenges? (Financial, shortage of food, childcare for healthcare workers/first responders, etc.)
  • Are there upcoming non-urgent medical/dental appointments for the child/children? If so, has DHS been consulted to determine whether these appointments can be postponed?
  • Does the caretaker have supportive individuals they are relying on right now to stay sane and healthy?
Volunteers are also encouraged to make contact with anyone else involved with the child’s care during this time to determine what their status is currently in relation to the child (if services are being suspended, being offered remotely, etc.). This includes contact with the natural parents, even if the child is not currently in their care.

Crisis in health, mental health, domestic violence and child welfare may arise during this stressful time. Some important information and contacts to have on hand:

Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline
Be alert and keep an eye out for signs of abuse and neglect, even more than usual, because abuse and neglect have been shown to increase during times of crisis/natural disasters. If you suspect child abuse and/or neglect, call the OK Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-522-3511 as soon as possible and alert your Advocate Manager.
Domestic Violence Hotline
Being quarantined at home is not always safe. Domestic Violence Intervention Hotline can be reached at 918-7HELP-ME (918-743-2763) 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The DVIS hotline can provide help to anyone experiencing domestic violence or if you want to help someone who is.
2-1-1 Hotline
2-1-1 Oklahoma will enable everyone to get help or provide help. 2-1-1 Oklahoma offers information and referral across the spectrum of human need, including but not limited to rental assistance, food pantries, affordable housing, health resources, child care, after-school programs, caregiver support, financial programs, literacy, and job programs.
And if you have any questions about COVID-19 here are some reliable sources to get updates from:
The World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

Volunteer Spotlight – Tracy Roberson

Meet Tracy!

Tracy Roberson knew for years that she wanted to be involved with CASA. After her youngest daughter went off to college and some of her other volunteer commitments were finished, she had time to freely devote to CASA and completed training in June 2019.

Tracy grew up in Tulsa but lived in Norman for 11 years until returning to the 918 in 1991. Since returning, she has been involved with various different organizations in a volunteer capacity. Tracy has also volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Bixby Educational Endowment Foundation, Bixby Outreach Center, and Call Rape.

Tracy has a cat named Holly and 3 daughters; Perri is 26 and lives in LA, Peyton is 23 and lives in OKC, and her youngest daughter Quinn is a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma.

Tracy was a stay-at-home mom while her children were growing up, but prior to that she was the Director of Student Services at the University Center at Tulsa (now OSU-Tulsa) and was Assistant Director of Student Development and Sorority Advisor at the University of Oklahoma. It’s safe to say that being a Sooner runs in their family!

When Tracy has free time outside of volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her children and friends, playing tennis, and traveling.

What do you enjoy most about being a CASA?

The relationships with the kids, of course. It’s definitely gratifying to get big smiles and hugs from the kids, feeling like they’re happy to see me.

My current CASA kiddo is in an intensive inpatient treatment facility and has inconsistent face-to-face visitors. I try to provide weekly visits where she can take a break from life for a bit and just be a kid, while also reinforcing positive behavior for her. CASA offers love, security and safety to Tulsa’s children in foster care.

My favorite moment on a case was when I would visit my CASA child at school, during recess and lunch. One day when the children were lining up for lunch, a boy in her class that she had mentioned was mean to her jumped in front of her in the lunch line. I asked if he meant to jump in front of her, and he quickly moved back behind her where he was supposed to be. Well, my little girl told him I was her attorney…I’m pretty sure none of the second graders (including her) knew what an attorney or a CASA were, but she certainly said it with a lot of authority!

I also love working with my advocate manager, Chloe. She goes above and beyond to give support and encouragement. She makes me feel as if my questions and my case were the only things she had to worry about!

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Tracy has only been an advocate since July, but she has already been an integral part of two cases. From the very beginning it was obvious that she was going to be a dedicated advocate.

She is kind, dependable and always shows up to meetings, visits, hearings or wherever she is needed. She is constantly surprising me with the amount of thought, effort and care she puts into her cases. When she serves her kiddos, she is absolutely all-in and goes the extra mile to make them feel special and wanted.

Once her first case closed, she jumped right back in and asked to serve another child! AND she drives an hour and a half almost every week to visit her CASA kiddo! She knows being present and showing up is the best way to advocate for them.

It is an absolute pleasure to work with Tracy as a team, and she keeps me informed about every step. I am so thankful she has volunteered her time to serve these children in our community! – Chloe Baldwin