Were you at Dallas CASA’s inaugural Advocate Summit this year? Almost 200 volunteer advocates came together for a full day of learning in community with each other. Dallas CASA staff and local child welfare professionals taught classes on topical issues including sex trafficking, the legal system and trauma-informed care.
So what did advocates have to say about the event? Here are the top five things Dallas CASA’s volunteers say they learned:
- You’re not in this alone. While advocating for a child is a job done one-on-one, volunteer advocates left the summit feeling heartened by the crowd. Being surrounded by people who do the same work you do was uplifting and reassuring.
- Optima is a great tool. Optima is the software advocates use to keep their notes, track volunteer hours and record visits. But a class on Optima showed many advocates how user-friendly and useful the software can be, allowing confidential information to be kept safely and easily accessible online. Several volunteers came away saying “There’s so much more I could be doing!”
- Fostering Connections is a little less confusing. Child Protective Services offers a program called Fostering Connections, which allows family members to become licensed foster homes. For advocates the requirements of the program can be confusing, but the program can be a critical factor in assisting families and advocates often have questions about it. A session led by CPS on Fostering Connections answered many advocates’ questions about who qualifies for the program and how to complete the requirements.
- You can’t overestimate the effect of trauma on the children we serve. Several sessions addressed trauma in children, including accessing appropriate therapy and services for medical, emotional and developmental needs. Advocates came away with new tools for working with traumatized children and ideas for getting those children the help they need.
- While sex trafficking disproportionately affects youths in foster care, lots of good people are fighting it. A session on sex trafficking was a favorite of advocates because they came away with proven ways to spot and combat sex trafficking. A 2012 study showed that between 50 and 80 percent of sex-trafficked youths had also spent time in foster care. Armed with knowledge, Dallas CASA volunteers now have the tools to help child victims of sex trafficking.
Plans are already in the works to do another advocate summit. Hope to see everyone there!