As we look toward our 40th year, we are more equipped than ever to advocate for children and youth in foster care in St. Louis.
Just a few months ago, our organization officially changed its name from Voices for Children to CASA of St. Louis. This strategic decision will help us better connect with the St. Louis community to tell our story and educate our partners on our advocacy work. Our new identity also connects us with the National CASA Association and network while raising public awareness about the state of our region’s most vulnerable children.
As part of that effort, you’ll be hearing from us more often—in person, via email, social media and in your mailbox. We are excited to announce we are currently running donated ads on-air on Fox 2 St. Louis in order to help us recruit more volunteers.
This summer, we hired Jennifer V. Howard as Chief Development Officer. Jennifer is responsible for strategic fundraising and leadership, and brings to CASA more than 30 years of experience working and volunteering for St. Louis area nonprofits. Most recently, she worked as the Vice President of Mental Health America (MHA) of Eastern Missouri, where she led a team devoted to improving the care and treatment of individuals living with mental illness. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to the CASA team!
The number of St. Louis’ children in foster care continues to climb—over the last 5 years, there has been a 12% increase. On average in St. Louis, 68 children enter the foster care system each month, which means we are doing more with less.
All children in foster care have experienced trauma, and the lessons they’re learning about adult behavior are long lasting. Our staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure children in foster care have a consistent, reliable adult presence in a time of turmoil which in turn, allows them to develop essential resiliency skills. What’s more, foster children with a CASA have an adult who will advocate on their behalf—in the classroom, in the courtroom, and by their side about small but important aspects of growing up—to help create a childhood as innocent and as “childlike” as possible during a time of family upheaval.
We are poised to serve even more children in 2020, and with the dedicated support of volunteers, community partners, and compassionate allies like you, we will continue to give a voice to those who don’t have the opportunity to speak out. Together, we can change lives. Thank you for your partnership.
Steve Moergen, Chief Executive Officer
Staff Spotlight - CaSSandra Grinston
CaSSandra Grinston, Senior Case Advocacy Supervisor, has been with us for two and a half years. Recently promoted, she reflects on her job with warmth for the many children under her care. She says the most rewarding part of her job is knowing her kids are safe.
CaSSandra’s job means managing the “big things”—like making sure children are safe and have the resources they need to survive and thrive both within foster care, and after they exit care. She supervises 20 Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), as well as works directly with her own cases. She is currently managing a caseload of 20 children directly and makes 2-3 visits with children per week. CaSSandra attends all court hearings with CASAs, as well as educational meetings, team decision making meetings and other appointments involving children who are assigned both directly to her and to her CASAs.
“Children deserve to be children—to be able to walk to school, not worried, just being a kid. The world we live in has put a lot of demands on children,” says CaSSandra. “The children we serve have been introduced to too much about life at an early age.”
CaSSandra’s work is a balance of the big things and the little things. The time she spends with the children is some of her most rewarding work, and has an enormous impact. “I remember their birthdays, and try to do things for them that makes them feel special, like remember their favorite cartoon, or their favorite book. I try to do what I can for them. They are always so appreciative,” says CaSSandra.
CaSSandra's job involves ensuring that CASAs are empowered to refer children to resources they need—for example educational resources. “Knowing when something was hard for them in school, or when one of my kids was having a hard time learning to read… I help them find the resources they need,” she says.
A little girl she's worked with for many years was struggling with reading. One of the most rewarding moments of her job was when she visited her this summer and the little girl looked at her and said, “Miss CaSSandra, ‘Can I read to you?’”
CaSSandra says that reading together is a way to get kids to open up to her, and talk about their feelings. “I always take a book with me,” she says.
“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing when something was hard for them in school and then seeing something really clicks...or in their foster home… in their behavior, and they can show you what they overcame,” she says.