Back to School. This statement conjures a number of images in the minds of many Americans: fresh school supplies, apples, and yellow school buses. Back to school for many means a fresh start and a new beginning. Excitement and anticipation abound as students look forward to seeing their friends, getting their teacher assignments, and participating in extracurricular events. Although New Year’s Day is still months away, the first day of school is approached with as much, if not more anticipation and resolve to improve.
For those of us who are no longer students, back to school often offers us a similar opportunity as own children and grandchildren return to school and religious and civic activities restart after a summer break. Additionally, as the Director of Central Georgia CASA, I have an opportunity to reflect on the fiscal year that has past and look forward into our new year, which began on July 1.
For us, the 2021-2022 year was one of growth. We saw the percentage of children in foster care served by a CASA Volunteer rise from 38% in July of 2021 to 50% in June of 2022. This increase is largely the result of the 15 new CASA Volunteers that were sworn-in over the last fiscal year.
Additionally, we hosted our 1st Clays for CASA skeet in November 2021. Not only was this event fun for everyone who participated, it was also a successful fundraiser. This inaugural event set a solid foundation for growth in the coming years.
As I look forward into the 2022-2023 year, I am hopeful about the trajectory of Central Georgia CASA. We continue to recruit, screen, and train volunteers and are hopeful that we can increase the percentage of children served in the Macon Judicial Circuit by another 10%. This work will be aided by our receipt of a Macon Violence Prevention grant which will help enable us to serve a higher number of older youth in foster care.
On October 22, we will host our 2nd Annual Clays for CASA Skeet Shoot, presented by John David Miller, Financial Advisor. Even at this early stage, we are confident that we will have an even larger field of shooters for another great day and fundraiser. In November, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Central Georgia CASA volunteers being sworn-in for service in the Macon Judicial Circuit.
This month, we are starting a monthly CASA Volunteer social gathering which we hope will help our Volunteers get to know one another better and strengthen our community of advocates. While the last year saw the departure of some longtime staff members and CASA Volunteers, we are excited to add new staff and new volunteers in the coming year.
This new year also offers the opportunity for our staff, board, and volunteers to refocus our minds on the work. In July, our Board of Directors adopted a statement of our organization’s Guiding Principles. As the Board, Staff, and Volunteers receive training on these Guiding Principles, we will have time to reflect on current practice and ensure that our work continues to be trauma-informed, compassionate, and on-mission.
While I am hopeful about the future, I also recognize that we cannot do this work alone. Our community’s children in foster care need a broad cross-section of the community’s support. We need compassionate and caring individuals to become CASA Volunteers. Our system desperately needs individuals and families willing to serve as foster parents for children while their parents work toward reunification. The families of children need a myriad of services offered throughout the community to address the issues underlying abuse and neglect. And much more.
As this new school year begins, I urge you to take some time to reflect on the year gone by and imagine how YOU can be a part of impacting our community for good in the year to come.