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CASA of Philadelphia
February 2016 News


From Wendy to the CASA Community:

“When I started this CASA program back in 2006, I really had no idea what I was I doing or what to expect. I had been a CASA Volunteer in Santa Clara County, California before I moved to Philadelphia and was disappointed to learn there was not an active CASA program here. I knew that if any city was in need of a CASA program, it was Philadelphia.

At that time the city was struggling with a child welfare system that was in disarray, with over 8,000 children placed in the foster care system. This was just prior to the tragic death of Danieal Kelly that would eventually become a catalyst for major system reform efforts at DHS.

On my very first day at CASA, I learned we were not getting the grant that we had anticipated for start-up costs and someone broke into our office and stole my purse and CASA’s only computer and all of our documents. Some people might have given up, but being an optimist I knew that after such a catastrophic first day, things could only get better.

And things at CASA did get better…much better. My first few volunteer training classes were great and some of the folks who went through those early trainings eventually ended up working at CASA, too. One of those early volunteers who ended up working at CASA was Leonard Bonarek. He came to the CASA office at 1217 Sansom Street for his volunteer interview before the pre-service training. The knob on our office door was broken, and after the interview Leonard offered to come back to fix it. It was only later that day when he came back that I learned he rode his bike all the way back home to West Philadelphia, got his tools, and rode all the way back to fix the knob! It was a reminder of what I already knew: CASA Volunteers are a truly special group of people.

I have met so many incredible people during my tenure at CASA. Over the years we have hit an occasional bump in the road, but thanks to that horrible first day it has all been uphill from there. Because of the dedicated efforts of CASA staff, board, and volunteers over the last ten years, hundreds of children in Philadelphia’s foster care system have had a caring, supportive adult to help guide them through the most unimaginable circumstances. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity to be a part of something as powerful and important to our city as CASA is and will continue to be.”

We wish Wendy all the best as she becomes the new Executive Director of the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund.  The organization, founded in 1976, provides assistance to families caring for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and injuries, in a manner that respects their privacy and dignity.

(Pictured above: CASA Staff at their last retreat.)


Special thanks this month to CASA EDM Volunteer Esther Cheung.  She has been working with a teenage refugee who is just learning English, and who recently gave birth to her first child.  Esther has helped this young girl navigate her school system, dealing with her multiple absences from school due to prenatal exams, and working on getting her moved into a new school program.


Thank you CASA Volunteer Anne Umbrecht and her husband Richard for their generous year end donation to CASA of Philadelphia County!


By, Trish Kinkle

In my work as a CASA supervisor, I have the privilege of working alongside an amazing group of volunteers who are selflessly dedicated to advocating for their CASA children. And while waiting for court hearings can be long and frustrating, I would also say that I feel honored to work with some incredible attorneys and social workers who also dedicate countless hours to working for the best interest of their clients.

The one thing that I rarely get to do, however, is spend time with the kids. As much as I do love my job, I am often jealous of my volunteers as I read their visit reports and hear the joy in their voices as they tell me all about “their” CASA kids. For a CASA volunteer, these kids are much more than cases or clients.

I am constantly in awe of my volunteers when they call me with updates on the thousands of phone calls (okay, let’s be honest; by phone calls I really mean voice mails) and emails they have sent in an effort to ensure that all of their children’s needs are met. However, my respect for and awe of my volunteers has gone through the roof over the last few weeks as I have been able to watch some of my volunteers with their CASA children.

A kid who is described as “completely out of control” by their teachers is so enamored with his CASA, the only problem comes when the visit ends and he can’t wait to see his CASA again. A teenage boy attending his first court hearing and is terrified. His CASA volunteer sits with him, telling him about her experience as a teenager having to go to court; quickly putting him at ease and building a relationship of trust with a kid who has a lifetime of reasons not to trust people. A teenage girl sits at her dining room table in tears as her life seemingly falls apart around her. Her CASA volunteer listens intently and while she can’t offer any solutions, her presence offers hope, something this girl thought was lost forever.

I don’t know how many CASA children I have advocated for in my 6 years with CASA, and while I may remember their names, their CASA volunteer knows their faces. They know more than what is discussed in treatment meetings and court hearings. CASA volunteers know the joys and fears of their CASA child; they know the hopes and disappointments.

Thank you, CASA volunteers, for consistently reminding me that the work we do is about real people; and for selflessly dedicating your time and your heart to these beautiful but often forgotten children.


Toy Donation

CHOP Thank you 2Thank you to the Child Life Department at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for your generous toy donation for our CASA kids!


Happy Birthday from everyone at CASA of Philadelphia to our CASA Volunteers who are celebrating birthdays this month:

Jennifer Andersen

Tiffany Braswell

Jessica James
Janet Miller

Rochelle Rose
Beth Vogel


For those of you who are working with older youth who are getting closer to the date when they could potentially age out of the dependency system, there are so many issues to discuss, including exploring all of the ways the youth could remain in care. The following brief video (5 minutes) from the Juvenile Law Center (JLC) explains Pennsylvania’s Act 91 with clear details about extending and re-entering foster care. Please view it yourself and then show it to your older youth so they can start thinking about their options:


Need in-service training hours?  Click here for an informative two-hour online training on trauma-informed care:


This is a free online training and when you have completed the training in its entirety, you will receive a certificate of completion.  Please print out or email the certificate to Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum for in-service training credit:



Join CASA Supervisor Terrill Carney and Program Supervisor Cynthia Mason in an Education Decision Maker (EDM) training, which would then qualify you to become an EDM Volunteer for a child in a case, in addition to being a CASA Volunteer.

This is a good training for those of you who have a strong interest specifically in the educational issues facing kids in care. You do not have to have a background in education, though it helps if you have a bit of experience either professionally or personally.

We are offering a condensed 2 hour training on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm in Room 21, 2nd Floor, at the Friends Center, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA.

You will receive 2 hours of in-service training credit for attending this training.  Please RSVP to:

Here is a list of how the role of EDM Volunteer and CASA Volunteer differ:

EDM Volunteer v. CASA Volunteer:

-EDM can be appointed to cases where child advocate attorney is with Public Defender, Support Center, etc.
-EDM appointment order is different from CASA Volunteer appointment order.
-Role of EDM is to act in parental role with regards to education decisions only. EDM is not advocating for permanency, health, sibling visits, etc.
-EDM is not required to attend all court hearings, complete a court report, or visit with the child monthly.
-Child Advocate attorney, employee of congregate care, DHS, and school district employees are prohibited from being a youth’s EDM.
-An EDM does not have to come from CASA. If system can identify a family member or other caring person in a youth’s life to be their EDM, that is preferable. CASA EDM will only be involved if system is unable to identify another adult. -EDM appointment lasts until the youth is no longer dependent or no longer attending an education program.


Join us!

Walk October 3Save the date now for our 4th Annual Superhero 5K Run/Walk, which will be held at the Philadelphia Zoo.  More details coming soon!


You told us and we listened! After hearing from many of you about the need for a way to identify yourselves as a CASA, we are instituting a new policy where we will begin issuing photo ID badges to all active CASA Volunteers.  In order for you to receive your new ID, please email a jpeg photo headshot to us as soon as possible.


We are in the process of finishing up our first batch of badges now, so if you have already sent us your photo, we will be in touch soon!


Please email your jpeg photo to Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum at: 


Please let us know if you have any new in-service training suggestions, ideas for volunteer get-togethers, or fund-raising ideas. We are also happy to host future events and trainings at locations other than the CASA office, so please let us know if you have any suggestions for available, convenient meeting spaces. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum at today!


Attention all active volunteers: Your Child Line child abuse clearance must be renewed every 2 years.  If your clearance is about to expire, you will soon be receiving a packet in the mail, including step by step instructions.

You are now able to complete the Child Line child abuse clearance online:

If you have any questions about the clearance process, please contact Cindy Blum at


Interested in doing a new online training for in-service credit?  Log in at:   Enter your e-mail and National CASA password. 


If you do not, yet, have a National CASA password, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum at: and she will set one up for you.

The mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Philadelphia is to train and support community volunteers to advocate for the health, safety, stability and well-being of abused and neglected children.

Upcoming Events:

February 24, 2016
EDM Training

October 1, 2016
Superhero Walk

For more information about any of our events or to RSVP, please  contact Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Blum.




CASA of Philadelphia

Board of Directors

Maura McInerney, Esq.
 Education Law Center
Board President

Maureen Smith Lawrence, Esq.
Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin & Schiller


Vice President


José N. Reyes III, Au.D.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Board Secretary

Judith Silver, PhD

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Vanessa Barbetti
Citizens Bank


Tom Bonner



Theresa Concepcíon, Esq.

Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP


Amit Goel, CPA

Ernst & Young, LLP


Philip Hawkins

Kurchner-Hawkins Associates


Robert S. Hawkins, Esq.

Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, PC


Sharon R. Jindal

Exelon Business Services, Labor Relations Services


Denis J. Lawler, Esq.

Blank Rome, LLP


Camille Fundora, Esq.
Berger & Montague, P.C.

Lynanne M. Schaeffer

Gaudenzia, Inc.

Eileen Horgan, Esq.

Women Against Abuse

Danielle Petaja, Esq.

Saul Ewing, LLP

Caroline Rosch
The Reinvestment Fund


Allison Modica, MLSP
Interim Executive Director

Cynthia Mason, Esq.
Program Supervisor

Cindy Blum, EdM
Volunteer Coordinator

Carletta Chandler, BSW
CASA Supervisor

Trish Kinkle, MSW
CASA Supervisor

Carole Cornelius, MSW
CASA Supervisor

Terrill Carney, MA
CASA Supervisor

We want to hear from you!

Please let us know if you have any new training suggestions or if you would like to contribute ideas, tips, or articles to our monthly newsletter.

Contact Program Supervisor
Cynthia Mason at:


CASA of Philadelphia
Friends Center
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA  19102

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