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

September Anniversaries 

Happy Anniversary to our wonderful September CASAs! Thank you for being strong child advocates and serving children who have experienced abuse and neglect.

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

August Anniversaries 

We have 15 extra reasons to celebrate this month! Happy Anniversary to our August CASAs. Thank you for all of the hard work you do on behalf of abused and neglected children!

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

The Need for Male CASA’s

CASA volunteers (Court Appointed Special Advocate) have proven to be so important in the lives of my children over the last six years. Sometimes they are the longest lasting mentor that these children have while in foster care. They love, they care, they help, they mentor & they speak up for what is in the best interest of each child during such a confusing & scary time. But often, they stay in that child’s life long after their “job” is over because they become part of their ‘family’ or support system.
Our sweet baby boy got a new CASA advocate last week. Out of so many CASA’s, this is the first time EVER over the last six years to have a male CASA!
It got me thinking about percentages, so I reached out to find that about 80% of CASA’s are women & only 20% are men. Understandably so, but wouldn’t it be cool to have more men who could be strong mentors & role models to fill the gap for boys in foster care? I am so thankful that this man chose to fill the gap for this child & be a strong, positive male influence in his life!
Men! If you have the time, the energy & the passion for kids in foster care—I ask that you look into becoming a child advocate. Look into changing children’s lives & growing that 20%. Become the voice for children who don’t often feel like they have one.

Post shared from: www.facebook.com/RealLifeFosterMom

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