2016 Brings Big Changes to the Utah CASA Program.
In July, the Utah Office of Guardian ad Litem and CASA committed to fund the State Program Administrator position once again. Melanie Speechly, who had been acting as the Interim CASA Program Administrator, accepted the position. As State Administrator, Ms. Speechly is responsible to rebuild the state organization; provide leadership, training, and technical support to our local programs; monitor quality assurance and allocate resources; and represent Utah in working closely with National CASA to advance the CASA Mission. She is looking forward to a new year with many new projects. This new website being one of the first projects on her list!
When Ms. Speechly was asked how she felt about leaving her position as a CASA Program Coordinator and moving onto work at the State level, she said, "As I reflect back on over five years of experience working in Second District, some of my most cherished memories are of working with the wonderful people from various cities, all of us working together to support abused and neglected children. It's a great experience to watch a judge swear in a new CASA and then to be able to assign the new advocate to their first case. And of course, assigning an experienced CASA to their second or third case is a pretty awesome too! Knowing that another child is now going to have the services of a CASA--that's a great feeling. And being able to work closely with generous, good hearted people has been a great privalege. I consider the advocates to be my dear friends and I am so grateful to have been able to work with them. It makes me so proud to be a member of our community. I also remember many tearful court observations and heart-wrenching advocate emails. The memories are profound because they remind me of the horrific environments so many children endure and the CASA volunteers who have stepped in to help. It is all too easy to remain unaware. While I wish that our societal problems would cease to exist and that all children could be raised by loving and nurturing biological parents, my focus within CASA is to ensure that advocates get the support that they need to do their best and that members of our community are aware of the needs and are given an opportunity to help. There are so many good people who want to help, we just have to be better about sharing what we do."
The Utah Guardian ad Litem and CASA Office also added two new local program coordinators to our team in September. Krystal Yorgason in Second District and Heather Allen in the Third District have both jumped right in and are loving their new positions. They joined the program with one goal in mind--to help the many children in our community who come into care because of abuse, neglect, or dependency. They are passionate about the mission of the CASA program and serving the needs of children through citizen volunteers. Both Heather and Krystal have experience in the child welfare system and bring with them qualities that will help them recruit and train new volunteers, as well as effectively serve their current CASA base. With over 220 CASA's who serve over 300 children in these counties, we feel lucky to have them and appreciate being fully staffed once again. We have some truly wonderful CASA Program Coordinators across our state!
With the help of the Utah Friends of CASA Board, the state office sponsored regional CASA conferences to provide specialized training to our wonderful advocates this past fall. Over one hundred and thirty advocates and staff attended the Northern Regional CASA Conference in Sandy, Utah, during October, and over 70 people attended the Southern Regional Conference held in lovely St. George, Utah, during November. Both were very successful and attended by many active advocates and almost all of the Guardian ad Litem attorneys. We learned so much and enjoyed getting together to share experiences through our common bond of CASA work. Please see our events page for pictures!
We welcome you to our website and hope you will send your friends here for more information about joining our program. We are also grateful to have a format and the opportunity to let some of our fabulous volunteers shine across the state. Check often for new updates!
Welcome to the new UtahCASA!