Advocate Spotlight: Meet Joanne Stroshine

Before becoming a CASA volunteer advocate, Joanne Stroshine was a high school teacher who saw many students at risk because they lacked the skills to cope with everyday challenges due to the abuse and neglect they were experiencing at home. After retiring, she joined CASA to try to break the generational chain with the goal of creating a brighter future for victimized children.

As a CASA, Joanne gets to know not only the child and the parents, but also the child’s DCYF (Division of Children, Youth and Families) caseworker, teachers and other community service providers involved in the case. Her role is to advocate on behalf of the child’s best interests, providing clear, unbiased recommendations for the judge to consider when making decisions affecting the child’s future. “I have been involved with four cases since joining CASA and the only common denominator among them has been the genuine love that the parents and children feel for each other,” Joanne recently shared.

In one of her cases, that love convinced the mother to make the very difficult decision to give up her son for adoption. She wanted someone who could give him the safe and permanent home that her struggle with substance misuse prevented her from providing.

“The greatest reward I could have received came on adoption day when, with joy in his eyes and voice, he announced, ‘I get to go to my forever home, now.’”

She said the next best reward was meeting the mother a year later and learning that she was sober and sees her son periodically. The mother thanked Joanne for helping them both get to a better place.

Joanne is just one of hundreds of advocates making a difference in the lives of victimized children through the generous support of donors like you. Your contributions enable us to advocate for more than a thousand children each year to help them find safe, stable and nurturing homes, free from abuse and neglect. As Joanne reminds us, “The challenges are great, but the rewards are greater.”

Program Manager – Manchester – Full Time

Basic Function:

The Program Manager coaches and supports Peer Coordinators and CASA Guardians ad Litem (volunteer advocates) to oversee and implement the direct service of the CASA Program. The position is full time.

Reports To:

Program Director or the President/CEO

Supervises:

CASA volunteer advocates and Peer Coordinators who volunteer in Manchester Family Court.

Major Duties & Responsibilities:

(under minimum guidelines established by the Board of Directors)

  • Assists in recruitment of Volunteer Advocates & Peer Coordinators
  • Assists in interviewing and screening Volunteer Advocate applicants & Peer Coordinators
  • Assists in training of Volunteer Advocates & Peer Coordinators
  • Ensures all court case data and files are accurate and up to date
  • Acts as liaison to court personnel, Division of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) and other strategic partners

Basic Qualifications

  • Experience supervising staff and/or volunteers
  • Experience in conducting training
  • Excellent oral and written skills
  • Knowledge of juvenile court/child protection system
  • Bachelor’s Degree

Other Information

This is a full-time, salaried position with benefits. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Hampshire strives to protect the right of our state’s most vulnerable children to live, learn and grow in the embrace of a loving family. Our trained volunteer advocates speak on behalf of the best interests of abused children who come to the attention of New Hampshire’s family courts through no fault of their own.

CASA of NH is an Equal Opportunity Employer offering a safe, inclusive, and supportive work environment where everyone is proactively engaged so that New Hampshire’s abused and neglected children benefit from increased effectiveness and alignment with our mission.

How to Apply

Submit cover letter, resume and salary requirements by email to Jonelle Gaffney  and Bernadette Melton-Plante.

Last Day to Apply

Friday, April 16, 2021

Being a CASA volunteer helped Pete King find a new level of work life balance

As an engineer who enjoys spending his days planning, organizing, scheduling and connecting people around one goal or project, Pete King says his work life blends easily with role as a CASA volunteer.

It’s a volunteer opportunity he heard about 20 years ago, but with young children and a full-time career, it wasn’t the right time. As an empty-nester 15 years later, a TV PSA for CASA prompted him to do some more research and apply to the program.

“I had a lot more free time on my hands, and was looking to keep busy while giving back to others who may be less fortunate than me,” he says.

In May, Pete will celebrate his fifth anniversary as a CASA. He has served 19 kids from 11 families in that time, and is always ready to start a new case when another is about to close.

Pete says this role has been a wonderful complement to skills he’s developed through his career. His cases are like his projects – he collects information and disseminates it, he works collaboratively with the child’s family, caseworkers and other professionals, he helps keep people organized and on task and then he writes reports that include the facts and information he’s collected and shares his opinion with the judge about what’s in the child’s best interests.

“There are so many things I’ve found I am good at as a CASA,” Pete says. “But there are a few areas where  I was inexperienced..”

For example, understanding social sciences aspect of being a CASA was very new to him, but he’s had access to training beyond the initial 40-hours that prepares you for the role and has taken numerous classes available to CASAs through Granite State College to help him learn.

Those classes have helped him improve in building a rapport with children and the parents on his cases and in turn, have helped him to become a better problem solver at work.

As a CASA, he recognizes how important it is for children to remain with or reunify with their families as long as the conditions that initiated the case were addressed and the child would be safe. In fact, he always has very high expectations for reunification and works hard with each parent, and admits feeling let down when a parent is unable to achieve the necessary steps to retain custody of their children. He’s seen it most strikingly in parents who’ve been opioid involved and cannot free themselves from the powerful grasp ofaddiction, despite their love for their kids.

“My goal is really to give the kids a better life,” Pete says.  “That might be my biggest disappointment, when parents can’t turn things around and the child can’t go home.  I take comfort in knowing that every child was in a better place at the conclusion of the case, be it reunification with parents who were able to turn their life around or adoption by relatives or a new forever family. ”

Fitting CASA in around a career

As a CASA, it’s Pete’s job to get to know the child or children at the center of the case he has been assigned. He meets with them at least once a month (something that has been done virtually or socially distanced since last March) and collects information from the adults in their lives so he can paint a picture of the child’s life for a judge overseeing the case in family court.

He spends about 12 hours a month on each case he is on, which he says is plenty of time to do some research, attend trainings or support groups, meet with kids and families, and write his quarterly reports and attend court, where he presents his recommendations in-person.

“It has refocused how I get my work done,” Pete says of fitting it in around his job. “I like to work, I like to be busy and if it weren’t for CASA, I would just work a lot of extra hours.”

Pete says overall, he has a fairly flexible schedule, but he still has clients, meetings and deadlines to adhere to. With the exception of the first court hearing when a case is presented to the court, each subsequent hearing is scheduled in advance with the parties present to ensure it fits everyone’s schedules.

“That’s a hard date that goes on my calendar,” Pete says.

Being a CASA during COVID

What Pete couldn’t have predicted 5 years ago, was how things would change in the face of a worldwide pandemic. It’s been a challenge, he says, and he misses seeing his CASA kids in person and as frequently as he used to.

For Pete’s current cases, he has a teenager and younger children, none of whom really have the patience or attention span to spend a lot of time on Zoom. So, his virtual time with them is brief but he relies on input from teachers and daycare providers who observe the children daily. He’s looking forward to being able to see them in-person again as the weather warms up.

Meanwhile, it has created some efficiencies in other areas. Zoom support groups and virtual trainings are easier to attend and not having to travel to meet with people or attend court is a time-saver, he says.

Getting involved with CASA

Pete says he’s very appreciative of his company, Geosyntec Consultants’ support of his volunteer work with CASA. Geosyntec recognizes the corporate responsibility for giving back whether it is volunteering in local food pantries or designing vital water supplies for African refugee camps.  Although most of the CASA volunteering, such as report writing or child visits can be done in evenings or on weekends, there are occasional court hearings or meetings that require scheduling during the workday.   They encourage community involvement and have been flexible with time he needs to take off to attend court hearings or meetings.

“They have been amazingly supportive. I would say they go above and beyond supporting employees with interests like this,” Pete says.

He says he appreciates that his firm and many other companies recognize the importance of providing time to volunteer. He thinks it’s a great way to retain employees, help them achieve more work life balance and understand better what their own goals are.

“Our firm, and others, recognize that there are so many things you can to do help employees remain engaged both inside and outside of work and it leads to companies retaining their employees.”

Work with the BIA

As a member of the BIA, you might recognize Pete’s name. He has been a very active member over the years. In addition to his career and his work as a CASA, he’s also volunteered his time and expertise to support the BIA in a variety of ways.

He’s been a member for about 20 years and in that time, he’s been very active in a group following environmental regulations and policies as well as serving on work groups and committees. He served as the BIA representative for an electric vehicle infrastructure group and has been involved in environmental, energy and legislative programs.

 

If you would like to become a CASA volunteer, consider attending an upcoming live virtual information session to learn more, or submit an application today. If you are a business owner and would like to provide an opportunity for your staff to learn more about CASA as a volunteer opportunity, we are happy to offer virtual lunch and learn or other personalized learning opportunity. Please contact Johanna Lawrence via email or at 603-626-4600. 

 

Get to Know CASA

Adoption Day for Grayson

For the Sillanpaa family,  Sept. 23, was no ordinary day. It was adoption day for 6-year-old Grayson who made a grand arrival to the court house … in a dump truck! It was the truck enthusiast’s one wish for that day.

His mom, Airial Doubleday Sillanpaa says Grayson was not the first child they adopted, rather, he was the fourth from three families. As a long-time foster family, Airial said it’s kind of surprising, but they’ve had a CASA on the case for each of their foster children, and she says working with CASAs over the years has shown her the good in people.

“I consider them everyday angels,” Airial says. “They are just regular people, but they step in and they are able to advocate and speak for a child who is too young, or maybe just not ready or able.”

Airial says Grayson’s CASA Charlotte was a wonderful person to have in his life. Grayson called her Miss Charlotte, and Airial she would come to their house to see him, to play and to talk about his life. And even though he was little, Charlotte made it a point to make him feel comfortable about talking about things that were hard for him to think about. For instance, he mentioned he missed some of his toys at his house, and at that age, that’s hard, she says.

“(Having a CASA) really just gives them a platform,” Airial says.

And it provides an extra layer of support from someone really there to be neutral and objective, making sure the child’s needs are a priority, she says.  In the case of one of her other children, Airial says the CASA was an invaluable support. She was a “squeaky wheel” who helped get Airial’s medically fragile child the support needed. “I don’t know that that would have happened without our CASA,” Airial says.
While COVID changed a lot of the ways in which people connected this year, Airial says Charlotte was great about checking in via email and on the phone and phoning into meetings.

One of her favorite moments, she says, was in the final months of Grayson’s case, they held a Zoom meeting with DCYF, CASA and Waypoint under the kitchen table because Grayson had made it into a fort. And in that moment, it wasn’t about her squeezing under a table while Grayson met with his team, it was about what worked for him at that time.

“Everybody just rolled with the punches.”

Because of COVID-19, adoption day also looked a little different. Where it previously would have been a large celebration with the Sillanpaa family, Grayson’s team of caseworkers, CASA and others, this adoption came just after courts re-opened on a limited basis and they could have just 10 people in the room. Her family made up 8, the judge was 9, Airial says. And number 10? Grayson invited Charlotte to join them for the special day.

Retirees Provide a Vital Voice for NH’s Abused and Neglected Children

After Seacoast New Hampshire resident Dean Plager retired, he enjoyed spending more time sailing, but he also felt a need to give back to society. He read an article about a local woman who was advocating for abused and neglected children as a volunteer with CASA of NH. “It hit home for me because I had been looking for something to do that really makes a difference. This was it,” Dean says.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire – or CASA of NH – recruits, trains and supervises volunteers to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children in the New Hampshire court system.  Volunteers spend time getting to know a victimized child and the important adults in that child’s life so they may make qualified, unbiased recommendations to a judge deciding a child’s future.  Since CASA of NH was founded in 1989, its volunteers have helped more than 10,000 children grow up in safe, permanent homes.

More than 55 percent of CASA of NH’s 600 volunteers last year were over 60 and almost 50 percent were retired or working part-time.  According to Marcia Sink, founder and President/CEO of CASA, women and men of retirement age play a key role in the organization’s goal to provide a CASA volunteer advocate to every abused or neglected child who needs one.

“We are expecting a surge in cases of abuse and neglect after the COVID pandemic passes and we need more volunteers now. Retired folks or people with flexible schedules are in a position to step up quickly, plus we find that our older volunteers have tremendous abilities that they still want to use during retirement. It is a good combination,” she says.

CASA volunteer advocate Darcy Horgan calls her work for CASA a “win/win,” commenting that “it engages my work ethic but has real meaning. At this stage of life, what a bonus it is to do valuable work that is fulfilling!”

Monadnock-area resident Patience Stoddard was a little bored in her second year of retirement. She attended a 40-hour training session to become a CASA volunteer advocate and found the training “exceptional.” She also discovered kindred spirits in her fellow classmates. “It makes you realize that there are a lot of good people out there. It keeps your faith in humanity,” she says.

As with other aspects of life, the COVID pandemic has altered CASA volunteer work. Training has moved online and advocates meet with children in safely distanced visits or, if the child is old enough, through virtual means. Some courts convene through telephone and web conferences while others offer socially distanced in-person meetings.

Steve and Betsy Coes were deep into training to become CASA volunteer advocates when the COVID pandemic hit. They completed their training online and received their first cases in Spring 2020. Steve says that he has been able to check on his one-year-old CASA child and do the work despite COVID. “Every time a new wrinkle arises, it is an education. Most of all, my CASA work is an education about what the world is like out there. You see how people get in situations and you start to understand motivations,” he says.

Want to learn more?  Read our FAQs about volunteering or join us for a live, virtual information session:

2020 Community Partner Award: Steve Friedman

Community Partner Award

Our Community Partner Award highlights CASA’s valuable community partners for their support, engagement and resources that they have contributed to furthering the mission of the work we do. CASA recognizes that we have broad and deep support from the New Hampshire community but we seek to acknowledge those people and companies who have gone above and beyond.

2020 Honoree: Steve Friedman

In 2020, we applaud Steve Friedman and thank him for years of support of CASA. Steve, a senior account executive with independent radio station 92.5 The River, Steve has provided several years of support through sponsorship of CASA’s signature events — Snowfest and CASA Cares. He is a member of the Snowfest committee, he has assisted in recording radio spots promoting CASA and he has facilitated speaking opportunities for CASA to present about the need for advocates and encourage attendance at events. He has provided us with raffle prizes and giveaways for events, emceed Snowfest, connected us with live musicians to play at Apres Ski and is a constant and enthusiastic supporter of the work CASA is doing on behalf of New Hampshire’s children. Thank you, Steve!