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Dallas CASA Celebrates 40 Years of Advocating for Children in Foster Care

Dallas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) has a magic trick planned for the organization’s 40th anniversary.

Magician Justin Flom of the SyFy show Wizard Wars will perform during a virtual celebration from 6 to 7 p.m. Sunday November 15.

Flom most recently performed in Dallas at the annual Dallas Mavericks Foundation 2020 Mavs Ball and received rave reviews. Flom is known for performing magic with ordinary objects, and every sponsor of the event, as well as those who purchase individual tickets by October 15, will receive a deck of playing cards by mail that will be incorporated into the entertainment.

Established in 1980, Dallas CASA was one of three pilot child advocacy programs in the country. Since then, with the tremendous support of the Dallas community, including many committed individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations, Dallas CASA has grown to serving nearly every child living in the protective care of the state who needs an advocate.

Dallas CASA’s volunteers are community members who complete 30 hours of training plus courtroom observations before being appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of children who’ve experienced abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers work with the child, their family, attorneys, medical and educational experts and make recommendations to judges about where a child can safely and permanently live.

Dallas CASA will honor Goldman Sachs, Pioneer Natural Resources and AT&T with the Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award during the 40th anniversary celebration. The trio of corporations hosts the Dallas CASA Classic golf tournament which has raised $20.6 million for Dallas CASA since its inception more than 20 years ago. The success of the tournament has contributed significantly to Dallas CASA’s capacity to advocate for more abused and neglected children growing from serving 407 children in 1998 to 3,644 in 2019.

“Dallas CASA would not be what it is today without these three companies and so many others in our community who have supported us in many ways during the past 40 years,” said Kathleen LaValle, president and CEO of Dallas CASA. “Dallas is known as a generous and community-minded city, and Dallas CASA feels that spirit every day. Our volunteers, donors and supporters have been there for us year after year, and have shown the children we serve that they care.  We’re able to tell child victims of abuse and neglect that we see them, we hear them and we want the best possible outcomes for their futures.”

The Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award is given annually to recognize community leaders who significantly improve the lives of children, particularly those whose young lives have been marked by abuse, neglect or other adversity. In 2008, the award was named in honor of Judge Harold Barefoot Sanders, Jr., a revered United States District Court judge for the Northern District of Texas. Judge Sanders was a past Champion of Children Award recipient and a steadfast supporter of Dallas CASA. His wife, Jan Sanders, served as a Dallas CASA volunteer.

The evening will also feature a special performance by Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings. The Young Strings Program develops the talents of exceptional and underrepresented string players by providing students with lessons and opportunities essential to success in music education and careers.

The Dallas CASA 40th Anniversary celebration will raise critical funds to help Dallas CASA continue to recruit and train volunteer advocates who help child victims of abuse and neglect and their families.

Tickets and sponsorships available now! https://www.dallascasa.org/dallas-casa-events/dallas-casa-40th-anniversary-celebration/ 

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Dallas CASA: The adage of “see something, say something” is a critical strategy to fight child abuse. But in the midst of a global pandemic and social distancing, “see something, say something” alone isn’t enough to keep our children safe.

With schools and daycares closed, fewer medical appointments being kept and less interaction with grandparents and neighbors, newer and better strategies are needed to keep children from becoming the unseen victims of the virus.

With fewer eyes on children and fewer safety nets in place, what are some ways we could all join together to support families who are struggling?

Do you know a parent who is facing:

  • Increased stress due to loss of employment or curtailed hours?
  • Mental health issues that grow worse with isolation?
  • Domestic violence risks triggered by cramped quarters?
  • Loss of child care or struggles with supervising distance learning?
  • Removal of support systems to help during addiction recovery?
  • Separation from an older relative who can no longer help?

Think about making a human connection to break through a parent’s feelings of isolation, helplessness and frustration, whether it’s a phone call or a Facetime chat or a free Zoom video session.

An evening without the stress of cooking dinner can help keep a parent from reaching their limits.  Order a meal from a restaurant that offers delivery service or curbside pick-up.  Drop off groceries at the family’s doorstep.

As parents, couples can learn to recognize the signs that stress is building toward a breaking point before a child becomes the stress absorber. Intervene before a loss of control results in injury to a child or each other. Allow one another time and space to cool down before re-engaging even if this means taking turns supervising your kids. Reach out to resources like those listed on the Mental Health America of Greater Dallas website. You can also call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line toll-free at 833-986-1919.

If interventions don’t work, remember that reports of child abuse and neglect can be called into the Texas Abuse Hotline at 800-252-5400.  Under Texas law, we’re all mandated child abuse reporters.

Don’t know a family in need? Anyone can participate right now in the Comfort Food Care Packages program supported in Dallas by the Governor’s Office, Texas Restaurants, Favor Delivery, and Dallas CASA. You can order and pay for a meal to feed a family of four to six by going online at participating restaurants. The meal will be delivered to a nearby family already identified as having an immediate need. Learn more here.

Want to do something now to help Dallas CASA be ready when the predicted surge in child abuse reports happens as social distancing comes to an end? Click here to register for one of Dallas CASA’s weekly virtual information sessions to learn about becoming a volunteer advocate. Find out how you can join your 1,500 community members who last year were strong voices and constant supports for Dallas child victims of abuse and neglect.

 
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DALLAS CASA: The adage of “see something, say something” is a critical strategy to fight child abuse. But in the midst of a global pandemic and social distancing, “see something, say something” alone isn’t enough to keep our children safe.

With schools and daycares closed, fewer medical appointments being kept and less interaction with grandparents and neighbors, newer and better strategies are needed to keep children from becoming the unseen victims of the virus.

With fewer eyes on children and fewer safety nets in place, what are some ways we could all join together to support families who are struggling?

Do you know a parent who is facing:

  • Increased stress due to loss of employment or curtailed hours?
  • Mental health issues that grow worse with isolation?
  • Domestic violence risks triggered by cramped quarters?
  • Loss of child care or struggles with supervising distance learning?
  • Removal of support systems to help during addiction recovery?
  • Separation from an older relative who can no longer help?

Think about making a human connection to break through a parent’s feelings of isolation, helplessness and frustration, whether it’s a phone call or a Facetime chat or a free Zoom video session.

An evening without the stress of cooking dinner can help keep a parent from reaching their limits.  Order a meal from a restaurant that offers delivery service or curbside pick-up.  Drop off groceries at the family’s doorstep.

As parents, couples can learn to recognize the signs that stress is building toward a breaking point before a child becomes the stress absorber. Intervene before a loss of control results in injury to a child or each other. Allow one another time and space to cool down before re-engaging even if this means taking turns supervising your kids. Reach out to resources like those listed on the Mental Health America of Greater Dallas website. You can also call the Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line toll-free at 833-986-1919.

If interventions don’t work, remember that reports of child abuse and neglect can be called into the Texas Abuse Hotline at 800-252-5400.  Under Texas law, we’re all mandated child abuse reporters.

Don’t know a family in need? Anyone can participate right now in the Comfort Food Care Packages program supported in Dallas by the Governor’s Office, Texas Restaurants, Favor Delivery, and Dallas CASA. You can order and pay for a meal to feed a family of four to six by going online at participating restaurants. The meal will be delivered to a nearby family already identified as having an immediate need. Learn more here.

Want to do something now to help Dallas CASA be ready when the predicted surge in child abuse reports happens as social distancing comes to an end? Click here to register for one of Dallas CASA’s weekly virtual information sessions to learn about becoming a volunteer advocate. Find out how you can join your 1,500 community members who last year were strong voices and constant supports for Dallas child victims of abuse and neglect.

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Child abuse investigators confront unimaginable challenges every day as they serve on the frontlines of the child welfare system where they witness domestic violence, drug abuse and open hostility.

Enter COVID-19, and the workers now confront yet one more alarming danger – this one invisible and potentially life-threatening. Child abuse investigators have been operating in the field with too little protection from exposure to COVID-19.

“Investigators are some of the bravest and most critical workers in the child welfare system” said Kathleen M. LaValle, president and CEO and of Dallas CASA. “They daily face challenges as they enter homes and unstable situations to ensure the safety and protection of our community’s most precious resource, our children.”

Kim Meth, a sworn child advocate for Dallas CASA, was able to secure 150 non-medical grade face masks for delivery to the Dallas office of Child Protective Investigations. Kim is the CEO of Timeline Promotions, a promotional products company she founded 25 years ago.

The masks were delivered this week and should provide some level of protection to workers responding to child abuse hotline reports. While the masks are not the medical grade N95 masks, CPS had been struggling to procure any protection at all, following multiple leads only to come up empty-handed.

“It felt good to actually be able to do something helpful in these scary days,” said Kim, who’s been involved with Dallas CASA Children’s Council since 2014.

Nationwide, there have been reports of fewer child abuse hotline calls during the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is not because child abuse has stopped. With school out and household tension high, children are at increased risk of being abused or neglected and have a lower chance of abuse or neglect being reported.

According to a local CPS official, this means while intakes are down a bit, stress is up for the entire child welfare system. The worry is that with kids at home, there is no teacher or school nurse to make the report. Hopefully, with masks in place, frontline responders will feel better protected as they seek to protect the safety of vulnerable children.

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Event co-chairs: Bela Cooley, Megan Sterquell, Elise Nichols Photo credit: James Coreas

More than 400 of Dallas’ most glittering young people gathered at The Hall on Dragon on February 1st for Dallas CASA’s 5th annual casino party, CASAblanca. This black tie event hosted by Dallas CASA’s Young Professionals group was chaired by Bela Cooley, Elise Nichols and Megan Sterquell and presented by The Hiduke Foundation.

The evening featured casino games, live music by The Special Edition Band, and a room full of guests committed to fighting child abuse. Men wore tuxedos while women sparkled in sequins. The young crowd gathered around blackjack and craps tables, spending pseudo money to earn chances at prizes. Guests posed for black and white shots in the MirMir photobooth and enjoyed a by-donation champagne bar.

After winning at the tables, The Special Edition Band kept the crowd moving on the dance floor. Guests enjoyed passed appetizers including a live work station, serving fresh fried rice in take-out containers. The evening ended with take-home honey butter chicken biscuits and a silent auction. 

Dallas CASA Young Professionals is an auxiliary support group of Dallas CASA open to young people between the ages of 21 and 40. The group raises critical funds for and awareness about Dallas CASA, which recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers to serve as advocates for children in protective care.

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Dallas CASA Champion of Children Award Dinner

 

Date: Thursday, November 14, 2019

Time: Reception 6:00 p.m., Program 7:00 p.m.

Place: Omni Dallas Hotel, 555 S Lamar St, Dallas, TX 75202 / 214.744.6664

 

HONOREES – Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki

HONORARY CHAIRS – Mrs. Nakita Johnson and The Hon. Eric Johnson

GUEST SPEAKER – Judge Rosemarie Aquilina

EVENT CO-CHAIRS – Janice and Richard Davis, Hannah and Greg May, Virginia and Edward Schaefer

 

Dallas CASA will honor Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki with the Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award for their ongoing commitment to making the lives of children better. During Dirk’s career, the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation awarded millions to help disadvantaged children. Since his retirement earlier this year, Dirk and his wife have continued their involvement and investment in the community’s children.

Guest speaker for the evening is Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the Michigan circuit court judge who allowed more than 150 abuse survivors to testify in court against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

The Champion of Children Award dinner raises funds for Dallas CASA. All proceeds are used to support the volunteer advocates who help abused children find safe, permanent and loving homes.

A limited number of tables and individual tickets are still available at https://www.dallascasa.org/dallas-casa-events/champion-of-children-award-dinner/. For more information, contact Michelle Mai at 469.547.9456, mmai@dallascasa.org or purchase tickets online at  https://app.mobilecause.com/form/tkuxDQ?vid=2ixfz

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Dallas CASA’s 2019 Champion of Children Award Dinner will feature speaker Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, the Michigan circuit court judge who allowed more than 150 abuse survivors to testify in court against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Aquilina gained national attention in 2018 for providing time and space for the victims to speak publicly prior to Nassar’s sentencing. Testimony that had been scheduled for four days stretched to seven, much of it televised. Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually molesting patients under the guise of medical treatment, but not before issuing a stinging rebuke on behalf of his victims.

“Your decision to assault was precise, calculated, manipulated, devious and despicable,” she said from the bench. “And I want you to know, as much as it was my honor and privilege to hear the survivors, it is my honor and privilege to sentence you. Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again. “I hope somewhere you have heard everybody’s words and it really does resonate with you.” 

Dallas CASA will honor Jessica and Dirk Nowitzki with the Judge Barefoot Sanders Champion of Children Award for their ongoing commitment to making the lives of children better. Since the very beginning of Dirk Nowitzki’s long and storied Dallas Mavericks career, his Dirk Nowitzki Foundation has awarded millions to help disadvantaged children. Since his retirement earlier this year, Dirk and his wife have continued their involvement and investment in the community’s children.

Dallas CASA’s Champion of Children Award Dinner will be held 6:00 p.m., Nov. 14 at The Omni Dallas. Dallas CASA is a nonprofit agency that provides trained and supervised community volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children living in protective care. 

A limited number of tables and individual tickets are available, please visit www.dallascasa.org

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Students from MacArthur High and Skyline High

Thirty years ago, Mike Lerner discovered architecture through a career exploration program at Dallas’ Skyline High School.

Today he’s back in the classroom himself, serving as advisor to the same career program that drew him to architecture.

Lerner and his Architecture Explorer Post students at Skyline and Irving’s MacArthur High School worked together this year to design and build a playhouse for Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses, which runs July 12 to 28 at NorthPark Center. Dallas CASA’s trained and supervised volunteers advocate for the best interests of children in foster care, and Parade of Playhouses is the nonprofit agency’s signature awareness event.

“I have heard that you learn more by teaching, and there is so much truth to that statement,” Lerner said. “Working with these students helps make me a better architect and a better mentor for our younger staff in the office.”

Lerner, a resident of Lake Highlands’ Town Creek neighborhood, was a senior at Skyline High School when he got a job at Architecture Demarest that allowed him to see what goes on in the design profession. After college, additional training and other professional architecture jobs, Lerner returned to Architecture Demarest five years ago as a senior project manager. Serving as an architecture advisor to local high schools allows him to pass on the same opportunities he had to today’s students. The program is designed for students interested in careers in the construction industry and prepares students to be managers, interior designers, architects and engineers.

“The students are very creative,” he said. “When we first introduced the playhouse project, there were so many good ideas it was difficult to narrow it down to a single project to build.”

Building a playhouse for Dallas CASA brings design challenges. But for Lerner and his students, the challenges forced them to think from a child’s perspective.

“We originally told them to design a playhouse that their six-year-old selves would have wanted in their backyards,” he said. “From there, they had to rein it in to work within a building program.”

MacArthur graduate Jon Ledesma, now in his second year at North Lake College and an intern at Architecture Demarest, said the first thing he noticed is that a six-foot ceiling works well for children but “feels tiny for adults.”

“We have to look at the house from a different perspective and access our inner children,” he said. “We wanted a place where they could be comfortable and in a safe place all their own.”

Students learned just how much work goes into each phase of a project, especially construction, and can begin to appreciate the relationship between a scaled drawing and an actual building. During a recent build date, Lerner overheard a student say “This is a lot more complicated than I thought!”

MacArthur students Sophie Geiger and Krishna Patel, both rising seniors, were working on a recent sweltering Sunday.

“The construction part is a lot more difficult than I thought,” Geiger said. “I learned a lot. Even if I didn’t want to be an architect, this has been so interesting and fun.”

For Patel, the design aspect was the most appealing. As a child, he was the kid who built Lego structures of his own design, not following the instructions. The playhouse has felt, to him, a little like adult Legos.

What’s in it for Lerner, an Eagle Scout and general do-gooder? It’s just plain fun, he says.

“It’s fun to see the students’ reactions to the technological tools we use and the amount of work needed to take a project from an initial sketch to a completed building,” he said. “It’s also fun to give them a hands-on experience of the materials that go into a project. I hope they gain a better understanding of the thought processes behind the buildings that they live in and go to school in.”

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Dallas CASA’s beloved Parade of Playhouses is bursting the real estate bubble this year, thanks to friends new and old.

KDC, a leading national real estate development and investment company with a penchant for good deeds, connected with Dallas CASA earlier this year about a new partnership that would make Parade of Playhouses more impactful.

A prior partnership with Dallas 24 Hour Club showed KDC the value of collaboration with others in the real estate community. More than 100 local companies joined KDC to provide financial support and services as KDC built a new facility for homeless men and women seeking a new life away from drugs and alcohol.

KDC wanted to bring the spirit of collaboration to a new nonprofit and saw the chance to make a difference with Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses. They stepped up to serve as parade grand marshal and brought many of their real estate friends along.

“Building big is what we usually do, but these little playhouses and the hopes they represent really captured our hearts and imaginations,” said Steve Van Amburgh, chief executive officer of KDC. “We hope working together with Dallas CASA will mean more children can have the safe, permanent homes they deserve. Values are the heart and soul of any great organization. KDC really admires what CASA is doing to help families and kids here in our city. That is why we’re jumping in to help and raise awareness and dollars for CASA. We are really excited to be a small part.”

Last year Dallas CASA’s 1,400 trained and supervised community volunteers advocated for 3,332 abused and neglected children living in protective care. For many children, their CASA volunteer was their only constant during a frightening and confusing time.

Presented by Crest Cadillac / Crest INFINITI / Crest Volvo, Parade of Playhouses is in its 24th year at NorthPark Center. With imaginative playhouses on display in the halls of NorthPark, the 17-day event is a key awareness opportunity for Dallas CASA. Playhouses are donated by generous architects, builders, organizations, corporations and individuals who hand-design and build each creation. Raffle tickets to win a house are sold online and at ticket tables throughout NorthPark Center.

KDC reached out to builders they work with and brought seven new houses to Parade of Playhouses, bringing the tentative number of houses for the 2019 event to 17.

KDC’s professional role is built-to-suit office facilities for companies looking to attract and retain top talent around the country. Notable KDC projects include Toyota Motor North America Headquarters in Plano and State Farm Cityline in Richardson, and the firm is currently finishing Pioneer Natural Resources’ new headquarters in Las Colinas.

This is the final weekend for Parade of Playhouses at NorthPark Center! Raffle drawing at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, July 28 in NorthPark's NorthCourt. All proceeds from sponsorships and raffle ticket sales benefit the abused children served by Dallas CASA.

Architects and builders include: Adolfson & Peterson Construction; Alliance Architects; Architecture Demarest; Austin Commercial, LP; Baker Triangle; The Beck Group; Butscher Construction; Coats Homes; Corgan; Crest Cadillac / Crest INFINITI / Crest Volvo; Gensler; HKS; Jeff and Jordan Kindig; Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.; LRO Residential; O’Brien Architects; Omniplan; Ridgemont Commercial Construction; Rogers O’Brien Construction; Sendero Consulting; Sleepy Hollow Homes; TDIndustries, Inc.; University of Oklahoma School of Architecture

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Autism Awareness Playhouse by TDI & Kimley-Horn

When Kimley-Horn’s designers sat down to dream up their playhouse for Dallas CASA’s 2019 Parade of Playhouses, they kept coming back to a theme: inclusion and unity.

“We reviewed all the houses from past years and noticed a lot of themes,” said Kimley-Horn’s Jonathan Campbell. “But we realized we could use the theme of our house as a platform.”

Ultimately, the group settled on an inclusive theme, and the house mirrors the colorful, well-known symbol of autism awareness. Square in shape, with colorful side paneling, the house brings awareness to autism but also an understanding of inclusiveness. The design team hopes it promote understanding.

“We hope it gives all kids the opportunity to interact,” Campbell said. “We want all kids to mix and mingle in the space.”

Dallas CASA’s Parade of Playhouses runs July 12 to 28 at NorthPark Center. With 17 houses on display and available to win by raffle, the event serves as Dallas CASA’s signature awareness event and raises funds to serve children who have suffered abuse or neglect. Dallas CASA’s trained and supervised community volunteers advocate for the best interests of children living in foster care because it’s not safe at home.

For Kimley-Horn, the house has already created greater awareness among staff designers and builders. Many people who worked on the house have friends or family members impacted by autism.

“We discovered almost everyone has been touched by autism,” Campbell said. “Whether it’s a family member with autism or a friend who works with students with autism, we all know someone affected.”

Kimley-Horn designer Alysa Gapinski’s mother teaches middle school students with autism and provided input for the design team. Madison Wavra, a landscape architecture student at Texas A&M interning at Kimley-Horn this summer, consulted a speech pathologist friend who works with students with autism.

The design team took into consideration colors and sensory elements as they designed, with the goal of creating house where all kids could feel comfortable and be active.

“We used cooler colors on the inside of the house so it would not be over-stimulating,” Wavra said. “And we were careful to consider sounds, also to limit sensory overload for sensitive children.”

When it came time for the design team to partner with builder TD Industries, the creative ideas kept coming. TD Industries suggested new and different building materials that bring textural change to the house, including colored Plexiglas, dowel rods that spin, aluminum slats, textured siding and smooth access portals.

“TD really embraced our idea and brought lots of their own ideas and materials,” Campbell said. “This house was a true collaborative team effort.”