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National CASA Conference Recap

Andrea Preston and Della Justice have prepared some takeaways from sessions they attended at the National CASA Conference in Boston earlier this month. Below are the names of the sessions, the presenters, any resources provided, and bullet points that summarize information that may be helpful for Local Programs.


Advocating for Children of Detained or Deported Parents

Prudence Beidler Carr, Emily Butera, Daniel Ginnetty, Iris Lopez

This session highlighted the issues that arise when immigration matters intersect with child welfare cases. The topic is complex, and the presenters provided informative handouts covering resources and identifying the parental interests that are involved. -DJ


Creative Content for CASA Programs (For social media, blog, newsletters, print and more!)

Callie Langford

Having pre-planned content ideas and a communications calender can be very helpful when deciding what to publish. This session provided editable examples from other programs. -DJ

  • Anyone who is involved in communications/marketing for a local program is encouraged to join the CASA Content Facebook group - a forum to share original or curated content that others may want to use, and to discuss a variety of other communications focused recruitment/development/etc. questions and needs
  • Communications Calendar: blank Excel editorial calendar (holiday and month themes included) that can be used to plan the type and timing of communications
  • Content Ideas: topics to use for generating content on social media, newsletters, etc.


Forget About It!: Increasing Knowledge Transfer After the Training Has Ended

Cindy Bonfini, Tara Ross

This session discussed ways to make learning continuous and for participants to apply learned knowledge. Ideas included allowing CEU credit for training material, Lunch & Learns, CASA coffees, and more. -AP

  • Continuous learning should:
    • Improve application
    • Foster listening and speaking
    • Increase trust
    • Increase understanding and respect for diversity
  • Ideas for keeping volunteers engaged
    • Send out articles for CEU credit
    • Lunch and Learns
    • CASA Coffees
    • CASA Café
    • Create a CASA University on your website offering up to date materials for learning


Learning Circles

Cindy Bonfini, Tara Ross

This session explored how learning circles are best implemented to support the classroom training experience. They should include diverse learners, from beginning advocate to multi-disciplinary partners. -AP

  • Learning circles include a diverse group of individuals, from beginner advocates to multi-disciplinary partners
  • Learning circles design:
    • 8-10 individuals who meet regularly about a topic or goal
    • Established ground rules to encourage respect and discussion
    • Led by facilitator, rather than a teacher
    • Group is goal-oriented – meets until goal is accomplished
    • 3 central components: learning, community, connection
  • Combination of technology & interpersonal connection is recommended
  • Important for the facilitator to allow the culture to come into the circle to increase discussion


Managing Learning: The Road to Excellence

Will Thalheimer, Ph.D.

This session addressed the difficulty in collecting meaningful data following training. The presenter offered suggestions for designing feedback questions, including thinking about how the participant will be triggered to implement the new learning. -AP

Copy of the PowerPoint:

Book reference: Performance Focused Smile Sheets by Will Thalheimer, Ph.D.

  • Remembering and Retrieval are key goals to training/learning environment, so allowing for questions and review during the learning process is critical
  • A key question when designing feedback questions: “How will the participant be trigged to implement the learned information?”
  • When designing evaluation questions, include the concept you are evaluating in the question.
  • Design questions and scales that will slow the participants down to think through the question.
  • Offer space on the evaluation for participants to write their own comments.


New Local Program Director Training

Paige Beard, National Program Officer

NCASA provided a day-long training for new program directors covering everything from the NCASA Core Model to board engagement.  The session provided some practice nuggets that even the most seasoned directors may find interesting. -DJ

Reference: National CASA Association Core Model

  • The family of origin, if that can be safely achieved, is a guiding principle for CASA
  • New Volunteer Training Curriculum is expected to be used so that the same training is being provided across the programs
  • Do not use “blanket orders” appointing the CASA program; the order should be specific to the volunteer for the case
  • Minimize staff time in the courtroom and empower volunteers to attend court on their own
  • “Monitoring” a case without being appointed to the case is not encouraged because it could create responsibilities even though not appointed
  • Funding sources should be equal in a pie chart
  • Do an in-service for Board Members each quarter
  • Executive Director should not take minutes during the meetings
  • Give Board Members a gift with the CASA logo


PR & Reputation Management – From Crisis to Opportunity

Warren Cooper

This session provided pointers about preparing for a crisis so that the program is not caught off guard when it happens. -DJ

  • Program and staff should be “Googled” regularly because there could be issues that you are unaware of
  • Create a crisis management team
  • In a crisis there should be a designated spokesperson – should be someone closest to the issue with knowledge
  • The spokesperson should not be the Executive Director so that if incorrect information is given, there is someone who can correct
  • There should be a script provided to those who may need to field calls, get inquiries etc.
  • When a crisis hits, create a Question & Answer that includes hard questions
  • Provide a phone number specific for media inquiries
  • There should be a staff/board contact list with everyone’s business and personal contact information because when a crisis hits it is often after business hours

Transforming Lives One Emotion at a Time

Tom Wojick

Child advocates can transform the life of a child by modeling and mentoring emotional intelligence practices and capabilities. This includes identifying, understanding, using, and regulating one's own feelings to accurately read the emotions of others. -AP

  • Emotions are a strong predictor of health, performance, well-being, and motivation, and they affect someone’s ability to make effective decisions
  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our emotions, and influence the emotions of other individuals
  • Emotional Intelligence can be applied in 3 steps:
    • What am I feeling? (Know yourself)
    • What options do I have? (Choose yourself)
    • What is my empathic and principled choice? (Give yourself)
  • It is important to be aware, intentional, and purposeful with emotions because they are powerful, infectious, and contagious
  • As a youth advocate, it is important to validate, explore, and transform emotions


Understanding and Supporting Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Katryn Haley-Little

Understanding the impact of this topic on the mind, body, and soul is important when supporting victims. This session focused on risk factors and red flags of sexual exploitation, as well as ways to respond to, empower, and support victims. -AP

For a copy of the PowerPoint slides: email

  • Reasons youth are at risk for sexual exploitation:
    • Abuse at home and other trauma
    • Runaways who don’t have a place to go
    • Not getting along with their family
    • Not feeling accepted for who they are
  • One risk factor by itself is not an indicator of sexual exploitation, but routinely more than one red flag will be present
  • Red flags can include:
    • Running away
    • Frequently late for curfew or absent from school
    • Owning expensive items without an explanation of how they got them
    • Having a tattoo they are reluctant to explain
    • Owning a cell phone that they didn’t purchase
    • Being involved with an older male
    • Having multiple sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancies
    • Being secretive about online activity
  • If a survivor discloses to you, there is a three-step process:
    • Validate – Acknowledge that they disclosed to you
    • Safety – What are their current needs to remain safe?
    • Plan – Involve the youth in the planning process
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733)