Five years ago, CASA of Northwest Arkansas set a very important goal: to provide a CASA to every child in need by the year 2020. We coined this goal our 2020 vision, and this year we achieved it! Between July 2019 and June 2020, we were a voice for every child in need across our four county region! We are so grateful for YOU – our remarkable volunteers, supporters, and partners who made this achievement possible.
Here’s a short Q&A with our Executive Director, Crystal Vickmark, about the journey.
What led to the creation of the 2020 vision?
In 2015, the board of directors challenged us to make our dream a reality. We had been saying we were going to serve 100% of the kids for years, but they wanted to see how we planned to do it. Challenge accepted!
At that time, what percentage of children was CASA of Northwest Arkansas serving?
At the time, we were serving 63% of the children in foster care. We knew we had to grow by 10% (or more) each year to meet the growth of our community and children entering the foster care system.
Why is it important that every child in foster care has a CASA volunteer?
There are so many reasons why a CASA volunteer is essential to a child, but the primary reason is that our children need a voice. They deserve to have someone whose only mission is the ensure that their needs are being met and best interests are heard. That someone is a CASA.
How did you plan to meet this ambitious goal?
After pulling together data and statistics on how many children we anticipated would be in care by 2020, we were able to determine how many volunteers we would need to retain, recruit, and train. We also had to determine our ideal volunteer supervision and staffing levels. We have a 30:1 volunteer to staff member ratio and as the number of volunteers increased, we needed to add more program staff which meant we needed to raise more funds! We had every step laid out for five years and religiously reviewed and modified our plans as we went.
Now that the 2020 vision has been met, what’s next?
Anticipating that we would meet our 2020 goal, we created a concurrent goal of ensuring our volunteers are highly trained to fiercely advocate for children in foster care. We have highly trained and specialized staff who are providing support and training to our amazing volunteers. Serving every child in need in 2020 doesn’t mean more children will not enter the foster care system, nor will we stop recruiting and training new volunteers! We have two new volunteer training classes starting in August and several more scheduled after that.
As Crystal said, our job is far from over. Unfortunately, children continue to come into care every day. While we celebrate this achievement, our eyes are always on the future and the possible challenges to come.