Welcoming CASA of Fayette County

Pennsylvania CASA Association (PA CASA) is pleased to announce the launch of CASA of Fayette County on May 3, 2021. 

CASA of Fayette County joins the PA CASA state office and a network of 21 local programs serving 27 counties across the Commonwealth in providing best-interest volunteer advocacy to abused and neglected children. With a newly hired Program Director, a dedicated Board of Directors, and a centrally located office in Uniontown, CASA of Fayette County is ready to open its doors and advocate for children!

PA CASA is the only organization entrusted by the National CASA/GAL Association to establish new CASA organizations throughout Pennsylvania. Developing new CASA programs across the Commonwealth is an essential function to achieve PA CASA’s vision of ensuring every abused and/or neglected child in Pennsylvania has access to the service and support of a CASA volunteer.

Interest in forming a CASA program in Fayette County was initiated by Judge Linda R. Cordaro, who reached out to PA CASA in November of 2019.  Judicial support is the essential component for a new local program to be considered.

In addition, community interest and state office support are critical to developing new CASA programs. Those two elements converged in early 2020 at a meeting for interested stakeholders convened by Judge Linda Cordaro at the Fayette County Courthouse. Many of the attendees were among the first members of a steering committee, who then collaborated with PA CASA to establish what would eventually become CASA of Fayette County.

In the Fall of 2020, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) approved PA CASA’s grant request to develop CASA of Fayette County with the award of a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. The grant, which provides funding to recruit, screen, train, and supervise community volunteers advocating for abused and neglected children, was key to implementing the new program. “This project is a wonderful example of the collaboration between the state CASA office and a local community to establish a CASA program to serve children who need an advocate,” says Jennifer DeBalko, Executive Director of PA CASA.

PA CASA staff led the steering committee of 20 dedicated and diverse community members through the National CASA/GAL membership process. The Western Program Operations Director and Program Specialist assisted the group in creating the foundational documents necessary for service delivery and non-profit management best practices.  

After submitting the necessary documentation to establish CASA of Fayette County with National CASA/GAL, the program was awarded its formal membership on February 10, 2021. The steering committee has since evolved into a governing board, which held its first meeting on October 16, 2020.

Selina Matis (President), Kendall Sisler (Vice President), Melinda Powell (Treasurer), Jolene Hough (Secretary), Christina DeMarco-Breeden, Gina Jenkins, and Shanon Leskinen make up the seven individuals who serve on the CASA of Fayette County Board of Directors. They established the program’s mission and vision, adopted policies and procedures to support their mission, and created a solid foundation for the program to ensure long-term sustainability and success.

On May 3, 2021, Mitch Samick was hired as the first Program Director of CASA of Fayette County to lead the program. “I am both honored and excited to be named the Program Director for CASA of Fayette County,” Samick said. “For the last six and a half years, I have been involved with CASA and truly believe that the children of Fayette County will benefit from this program.”

Mr. Samick will lead the newly formed local program to recruit community members who will become trained Court Appointed Special Advocates and build on existing relationships with community stakeholders. The program expects to begin training its first class of volunteers in the early Summer of 2021.

“I am so excited that CASA will soon be underway in Fayette County,” Judge Linda Cordaro said. “CASA provides a wonderful opportunity for volunteers who are passionate about advocating for the welfare of children to become involved in the process.”

CASA of Fayette County’s mission is to recruit, train, and support community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in dependency court proceedings in Fayette County. CASA volunteers work to ensure that the needs of the children to whom they are assigned are met and that they achieve permanency as soon as possible.

PA CASA supports the existing network of local CASA programs, builds new CASA programs, and secures resources critical to CASA’s mission. Through statewide advocacy, PA CASA provides resources that make it easier for CASA programs to serve children. PA CASA’s vision is for every abused and/or neglected child in Pennsylvania to have access to the service and support of a CASA volunteer.

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