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Fraternity Blog

Posted On: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 08:30 AM, by Elise Connor Rowan
When I'm chatting in the break room with a colleague or with a stranger on an airplane and Theta comes up, I usually take the extra 30 seconds to tell them Theta supports Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an organization that stands up for abused and neglected children in foster care. It's one of reasons I'm so proud to be a Theta.

Apparently, I'm not alone. I recently had the privilege of meeting with CASA CEO Michael Piraino who told me a heart-warming story about a Theta sharing CASA with a stranger. Michael was on a plane and he overheard a young woman talking about Theta and explaining CASA to her seatmate. Michael sat back, smiled, and listened to her enthusiastically explain his life's work. At the end of the flight, when people were collecting their bags to de-board the plane, Michael told her he overheard her conversation and introduced himself as the CEO of CASA. She was a little embarrassed and asked if she had said the right things. "Couldn't have said it better myself," Michael replied.

This upcoming year, Kappa Alpha Theta and CASA will mark the 25th anniversary of our partnership. And it really is a partnership. We have supported their mission to advocate on behalf of children who need a champion, and CASA has enabled us to spread the widest influence for good—one of the core aims of our fraternity.

As Theta's liaison to CASA, it is my privilege to work with CASA to understand their work to advocate on behalf of children in need of a champion, communicate the significance of that work to Thetas everywhere, and encourage our members to spread the word to friends and family about the incredible service CASA provides to the community.

For anyone who needs a refresher, here's how it works: A judge appoints a CASA volunteer—a member of the community—to represent the best interests of a child in foster care. The CASA volunteer gets to know the child, listens to the child's wishes, considers his or her safety, and works within the legal system to find the child a safe and permanent home, either with his or her family or with an adoptive family. In some cases, a CASA volunteer is the one constant presence in these kids' lives.

Anyone looking to better understand the difference a CASA volunteer can make in a child's life should read Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, a 22-year-old who spent most of her childhood in more than a dozen foster homes, some of which were abusive or not suitable for a little girl. In her book, she shares that her CASA volunteer, Mary Miller, was her biggest advocate and one of the main reasons she was adopted into a safe and loving home.

How do Thetas support CASA? Last year our college chapters alone raised $750,000 for CASA both locally and nationally. According to CASA, it costs them about $1,000 per year in training costs to give a child an advocate. That's 750 lives that our college chapters supported just last year alone! But it goes beyond money. Thetas also serve as advocates like Mary Miller, board members for their local CASA programs, or volunteers at events to raise money for CASA locally. Our support for CASA runs wide, and it runs deep.

After 25 years of working with CASA, Theta has developed thousands of potential advocates for abused and neglected children in foster care. This coming year, as we prepare to celebrate this milestone with CASA, I am motivated by the fact that Kappa Alpha Theta has had an impact on the lives of thousands of children and young adults. And we have so much more to do. Stay tuned for ways you can participate in the 25th anniversary celebration.

Watch Michael's message to Thetas everywhere for National Child Abuse Prevention Month:

Elise Connor Rowan, Gamma/Butler, is Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity's service & philanthropy committee chairman.

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