Category Archives: Newsletter | May 2016

National CASA Appointment for ED Crystal Vickmark

IMG_6362Crystal Vickmark has been appointed by the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association as a member of its newly formed Suburban Leadership Council. Four Leadership Councils (Urban, Suburban, Rural, and Tribal) have been organized by the National CASA Association with members representing their peers from similar size programs.  Each council will advise and provide support to the National CASA Association in its work on behalf of state organizations and local programs, by sharing expertise and providing input and guidance.

“Through strong partnerships and collaborative strategies, we will strengthen the foundation of the CASA/GAL member network, create pathways for sustainable organizational growth, and generate better outcomes for the abused and neglected children we serve,” said Tara Perry, Chief Executive Officer of National CASA Association.

“This engagement with state and local members is rooted in the National CASA Association Strategic Framework,” said Perry. “We are very appreciative and excited to have this level of talent serving on the Suburban Leadership Council, working together to look at the unique needs of abused and neglected children in these communities.”

Crystal is one of 12 CASA directors selected for this prestigious opportunity. We look forward to her using her expertise and 13 years of experience serving Northwest Arkansas to strengthen the entire network of CASA programs across the country. Way to go, Crystal!

Oh, the Places They’ll Go!

Ograduation_quote1nly 58% of teens in foster care will graduate high school by age 19*. When peers outside of the system graduate at a rate of 87%, it certainly seems the odds are stacked against a child in care.

We are proud to report that many of our local CASA teens have beat the odds! Of the seven foster teens graduating with a diploma or GED this year, six have the support of a CASA advocate. The other regularly attends ILP (Independent Living Program) classes hosted by CASA at our Springdale facility.

Each of these young people has a story to tell. That story includes how many hundreds of days he has been in foster care.  It includes the months of abuse she endured.  It includes the location of every placement and shelter he lived in.


But, those are not the interesting parts of the story to us at CASA.  What is interesting is how these young people have persevered.  It is how they have not just survived but thrived amid difficult circumstances.


“Abandoned at an early age and alone, my child has been in DHS custody for eight years. Sometimes in the past she refused to get up for school or even to eat before dinner time. She has made an almost miraculous turnaround. I believe the difference was in feeling people care about her- the staff in the home where she lives, the DHS case workers and CASA. In her graduation speech, she thanked all the people who lifted her up and did not give up on her. I had tears in my eyes, just as I did when my daughter graduated from high school.”

-Janet, CASA volunteer since 2005

“Despite ten different placements (and subsequently, ten different schools) during her three and a half years of high school, my child was able to graduate high school a semester early, earn a 29 on her ACTs, and enroll in community college. Her perseverance serves as a lesson for us all.”

-Morgan, CASA volunteer since 2014

The adjective “foster” describes a child, but it doesn’t define her.  These children prove that for us all. Congratulations 2016 graduates.


*Courtney, M.E., and Dworsky, A. (2005). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 19. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children.

In Good Company Platinum Sponsor: Paramount Pictures

Dedication and passion.

In their Statement of Business Conduct, Paramount and its parent company Viacom list dedication and passion as two of the attributes they value most from individuals in their work environment. As Paramount celebrated 100 years of business in 2012, clearly dedication and passion have played a role in their success.Paramount_AViacomCo_SML_CMYK_1 copy

While CASA of NWA is only approaching our 20th anniversary in 2017, we agree these characteristics are what enable our volunteers to make the impact they do every day. Our advocates bring their hearts to every child visit and their voices to every court hearing. Our volunteers show their CASA kids they are committed to their well-being and will do whatever it takes to make sure these children are heard.

CASA of NWA is so grateful for Paramount’s investment in our life-changing advocacy. Robert Oram, Vice President of Paramount Home Entertainment, shares, “Paramount is so honored and privileged to be a strong supporter of CASA.”

Shared values = great partners. Thank you, Paramount.

Volunteer Spotlight: Becky Richards

IMG_8650According to Becky Richards, she has always been advocating for children. She may not have always been heard, but she was constantly fighting for those who didn’t have a voice. With a career in preschool and special education, Becky knew her advocacy wouldn’t end when she left the public school system and heard of CASA through a colleague who had adopted twins. When she retired, Becky knew just what was next.

That leads us to the infamous CASA interview mentioned earlier. Hurrying from an afternoon working with special needs teenagers, Becky arrived to the CASA office in sweats. She had NO idea she would be seated at a table with what seemed liked ten professionals staring at her. They grilled her to make sure her intentions were genuine, and her commitment was real. She laughs about how nervous she was but knows that the screening is absolutely necessary. Foster children have already been through so much. Their advocates can’t be flippant.

In her three years serving as a CASA volunteer, Becky has worked five cases. The most memorable was her first. The toddler in the case had been so badly beaten she was transported via helicopter to Children’s Hospital. The young, biological mother was not the abuser and was herself a product of foster care. Becky worked a very complicated case to find a solution that would allow the child to be out of harm’s way but still have contact with her biological mother. The solution wasn’t easy, but Becky was committed to speaking up for the best interest of the child.

Becky works multiple cases as a seasoned advocate. She hasn’t taken every case that has come her way, but she believes this work is very rewarding and that she absolutely makes a difference. Becoming an advocate isn’t for everyone. But when asked why she continues to volunteer, her response is simple, “It’s what I’m supposed to do.” We agree, Becky. Thank you for impacting so many lives.