Being a Court Appointed Special Advocate is a professional volunteer experience that requires continuing education. CASA volunteers are expected to complete an additional 12 hours of training yearly. Two volunteers, Nancy Rogowski and Jill Woody, have taken that requirement a step further by participating in the Family Development Credentialing (FDC) Program. This is a community-based, training and credentialing program for front line workers which teach a strength-based, empowerment model of practice.
This is a part of Pennsylvania's Permanency Practice Initiative in which Warren and Forest Counties participate. The underlining theory on which the PPI was built is that enhanced judicial oversight combined with strength-based, family-led practices will ultimately increase the number of children safely maintained in their own homes and support expedited stability either through safely returning children to their families or the finalization of another permanent plan.
Director Lisa Thompson stated, "I knew when the training was offered in Venango County that most of the CASA advocates would be interested but the time commitment could be a barrier; so I was surprised and pleased when Jill and Nancy said they thought they could dedicate themselves to this endeavor."
Jill Woody, left, and Nancy Rogowski holding their Family Development Credentials
Woody stated, "I believe the FDC will help me empower children in setting goals while focusing on their strengths and the Family Development Plan will help older children learn to prioritize in their goal setting and focus on their achievements. The FDC works well with the CASA Philosophy of advocating and focusing on what is going right. It also improved our communication and collaboration skills."
Family Development Training includes 80 hours of classroom work based on the text: Empowerment Skills for Family Workers (Claire Forest, 2003), supplemental materials approved by Temple University (2003 - 2012) and professional support for the development of a portfolio to demonstrate the core skills taught in the classroom sessions. There is a final exam at the end of the program. Successful participants receive the Credential for Strengths-Based Family Workers, which is issued in Pennsylvania by Temple University. Participants are eligible to receive a transcript for 6 college credits from Excelsior College in New York; through the National College Credit Recommendation Service. In addition, CASA of Warren and Forest Counties is recognized as having an accredited employee/volunteer.
Rogowski could see the benefit that being credentialed would bring to her work as a CASA.
"I believe that FDC will help me in my approach with my CASA children....after all, it is all about empowering families and individuals. When we treat our children where the system makes all of the decisions for them, they are not learning about life in general. Yes children will make mistakes but that is how children learn. Our children in the system are watched very closely and in many cases are not able to make simple decisions. Our ultimate goal with our children is to prepare them to be self sufficient/self-reliant when they become adults. The CASA's role in this process is to encourage and guide the child in making good decisions in their life."
Thompson stated, "I am amazed at the time, energy and enthusiasm Jill and Nancy dedicated to this learning experience. But in my CASA work I am constantly amazed and humbled by CASA volunteers desire to go above and beyond for the benefit of abused and neglected children."