DUNMORE — A gala with a cash bar, a silent auction, and music from EJ the DJ celebrated 10 years of ‘secret superheroes’ of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). It was called CASA Unmasked, and it was held at La Buona Vita in Dunmore on Friday, Oct. 12.
Since 2008, CASA volunteers have been advocating for children in the foster care and child welfare systems. They check in with the children to ensure the rights and needs of the children and also give them a voice. The gala ‘unmasked’ these heroes by letting the community aware of what they do.
One of the CASA volunteers is Tierney Ulmer, of Clarks Summit. She works with two children in Lackawanna County by acting as an extra set of eyes and ears on their child welfare case while in foster care. She also makes sure the children are receiving everything they need.
“It’s so important that kids in foster care have somebody to help them express their needs and wants throughout their case,” she said.
Ulmer is also doing her Master’s degree internship with CASA director Joan Peterson at Marywood University’s social work program.
Peckville resident Katie Klein, who grew up in Clarks Summit, has been a board member of CASA for six months. She helped get donations for CASA Unmasked.
“I think it benefits the community so much and the children in foster care,” she said.
New member of CASA Laura Morrissey, of West Pittston was sworn in as a volunteer in June 2018. She performed eight weeks of training including 30 hours in the classroom. She is currently advocating for four children. She makes recommendations on where the best place is for the children to find a home.
“My job is to give the children a voice as they go through the foster system,” she said. “Someone needs to be a voice for the children. They are too young to express themselves. We take in consideration all the aspects from all other agencies. We need to build a rapport and build trust with the child in order to find what’s best for that child eventually.”
During her opening remarks at the CASA Unmasked event, Peterson had CASA volunteers stand up so they can be applauded.
“These heroes give up their night and weekends to check in with kids in foster care,” she said. “They want to make sure each child is thriving and has a voice. Today, we would like to unmask CASA. We would like to ensure the community of the important work that we do. We believe that CASA is an effective and meaningful way to make a difference in a life of a child.”
Human Services Director for Lackawanna County Bill Browning spoke in place of the Honorable Andrew Jarbola, who couldn’t make it to the event. Browning talked about the significance of having a CASA volunteer speak for children instead of children..
“We needed an impartial party like CASA to go out and advocate for these kids, give them voice outside the agency,” he said. “We thought it was so important to our mission because we believe in transparency.”
Browning introduced 22-year-old Desiree Klingensmith, whose life was positively affected by CASA since she was 13 years old, to speak about her experience with CASA. Klingensmith acknowledged Lisa Murphy, who was an advocate for her and her six siblings by making sure they went to school and did their homework.
“She (Murphy) didn’t only show heart, but she showed empathy and everything else,” she said. “She was there for us. She was a natural figure in my family’s life.”
Klingensmith also thanked the CASA program itself. She currently resides in Cresco, PA and is majoring in Restaurant and Hospitality Management at Northampton Community College.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Murphy, who still keeps in contact with Klingensmith. “She’s come a long way through many struggles.”
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