Gila County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program honored volunteers with special awards this week as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month winds downs.
This spring, CASA is bringing awareness to the issues of child abuse, neglect and children in foster care by encouraging the public to join the “Go Blue” awareness effort.
It is always important for Arizona to remain aware of the vulnerable children that, through no fault of their own, end up in the state’s care due to abuse and neglect, CASA officials said in a press release about Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
Katrisha Stuler of the Gila County CASA program said, “It is the hope of CASA volunteers that as we face these challenging and difficult economic times, everyone must make sure that our communities acknowledge the difficult circumstances that affect the very children that live in our neighborhoods, attend our schools and play in our parks.
“This is not a problem that affects some other community, it is ours. The number of children removed from their homes for their own safety is increasing, and our children in foster care struggle with life in limbo as they wait to hear whether they will go home, whether they will be placed with an alternative forever family, or whether they will grow up in the state’s care.”
As agencies that protect, serve and help heal our children and families are faced with extreme economic challenges, we must be vigilant in our efforts to keep this issue visible, Stuler said.
There are ways you can help. Encourage your community to participate in “Go Blue” and bring attention to these issues that CASA volunteers work endlessly to fight. To learn more, contact Stuler at (928) 474-7145 or visit azcasa.org.
As part of the month’s activities, awards were presented to local residents at the Child Advocacy Recognition Event held Tuesday, April 21.
The Gila County CASA program and the Gila Family Advocacy Center held a luncheon and award ceremony at the Payson Public Library to honor all of those who are advocates for children.
CASA volunteers, Gila Family Advocacy Center staff, Time Out Shelter staff, foster parents, Child Welfare staff, Arizona’s Children Association staff and some of the attorneys that represent children attended the event.
Presenters at the ceremony included: Kenny Evans, mayor; Peter Cahill, presiding judge; and Bonnie Marcus, state CASA program manager. The following individuals were recognized for their contributions to child advocacy:
Leslie and Robert Tarallo, Court Appointed Special Advocates - CASA Award of Excellence.
The Tarallos have been CASA volunteers for seven years. During this time they have served on six cases, which included a total of nine children. In addition to being dedicated advocates, they are also active in recruiting new CASA volunteers and spreading the word throughout the community about the CASA program.
Leslie Tarallo also serves on the Gila County Best for Babies Committee. This dynamic duo works tirelessly for the dependent children of Gila County and provide the court with vital information regarding the children they serve.
Payson Roundup - CASA
Award of Appreciation
Katrisha Stuler, program manager for the Gila County CASA program recognized John Naughton and the Payson Roundup and thanked them for the support of the CASA program. Payson Roundup operations manager Julie Wantland is a CASA volunteer recruiter and CASA ambassador. Wantland was thanked and recognized for her commitment to the CASA cause as well.
Minnie Norman, Court Appointed Special Advocate - CASA Award of Appreciation
Norman was recognized and thanked for her tremendous contribution to the CASA office. The Northern Gila County CASA program lost its support staff person in January 2009. Norman came to the rescue and helped out in the CASA office for almost three months.
She also is an assistant with the CASA monthly newsletter and she serves as a CASA ambassador.
Kelli Schuttinga with Arizona’s Children Association also recognized foster families
Arizona’s Children Association, the oldest behavioral health agency in the state that works strictly with children under 18 and their families, was given the opportunity to honor two of its foster families in Payson during the Child Advocacy Recognition Event Tuesday: Rick and Irene Welsh and Arnold and Penni Stonebrink.
The Welshes have been foster parents for two-and-a-half years and the Stonebrinks have been foster parents for five years. Both families exemplify what unconditional love is all about, caring for the most vulnerable of individuals in our society, children who have been removed from their bio-homes due in part to crises in those homes.
As Irene Welsh so aptly states, “We just love on them, give them stability and consistency until they can be reunited with their bio-families.”
Foster parenting is often misunderstood; not so long ago foster parents were not allowed to connect with bio-parents or even be considered as adoptive parents, but that has changed.
Today the hope is to work in partnership between CPS, the bio-parents and thus foster parents become a link in helping to mentor the bio-parents during their separation and eventual reunification.
Not all children will be reunified and at that point foster parents may become adoptive parents of the very same children they have fostered. This is another step in the process of helping to fill the cracks in little broken vessels that so desperately need permanency and well-being as they grow and mature into adulthood.
For more information on fostering or adopting, please contact Kelli Schuttinga, with Arizona’s Children Association at (928) 232-7149.