During this holiday season, I hope you and your loved ones are safe, healthy, and finding time for rest and reflection. As I reflect on the past year, I feel grateful to have witnessed the unwavering commitment of our network to the children, youth, and families we serve. Your dedication has made a real difference in their lives.
We recognize the unprecedented challenges that delayed grant funding has presented us all this year and are eternally grateful for the patience, strength and partnership of our entire community during this time. Through these challenges we have remained deeply committed to our mission and service to our network.
As you know, National CASA/GAL offices will be officially closed for the last two weeks of the year. That said, leadership will be continuously engaged with OJJDP as we bring the funding matter to a close, and look forward to sharing with you and other key stakeholders good news before the year ends, allowing us to start 2024 by looking ahead.
Despite the challenges we have faced this year, our collective commitment to the mission of serving children and youth has allowed us all to make incredible progress in 2023. Your dedication and partnership have helped make the following possible:
- Our Network Grew in 2023 In the pursuit of serving every eligible child across the country, the National CASA/GAL Association welcomed 25 new and expanded local programs. These programs provide the opportunity to serve over 8,000 additional children. We are delighted that there are now 15 states, as well as the District of Columbia, that have CASA/GAL program coverage in all jurisdictions.
- We Trained and Empowered Child Advocates To ensure volunteers are prepared for the complex issues they will face, the CASA/GAL network provided comprehensive and relevant pre-service training to 20,000 new volunteers and topical continuing education to 77,000 volunteers.
- We Strengthened the Quality of Programs To ensure the high-quality program operation and protection of the vulnerable children we serve, we are dedicated to assurance of national program standards. As reported through self-assessments, local programs indicated an average of 90% alignment with the nationwide standards being assessed. We continued with the Highly Effective Standards Review Process (HESRP) for state CASA/GAL organizations with reviews conducted to date for 42 of the states. Positive feedback continues to be received from the staff and state stakeholders interviewed as a part of the process, which results in individual roadmaps for states to progress to highly effective.
- We Hosted a Successful National Conference Our 2023 annual conference, attended by over 800 individuals, provided a space for us to come together, united by our purpose, and reaffirm our dedication to making a difference in the lives of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. All our remarkable speakers’ themes and the nearly 50 workshops offered centered on the three strategic themes of our 2030 Strategic Framework: reducing the number of children in foster care; strengthening and supporting families; and increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our network.
Once again, I extend my deepest appreciation to you for your remarkable contributions. We are inspired by your hard work and determination. Together, we will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those we serve. Thank you for an amazing year of working together to support children and youth who have experienced abuse and neglect. We couldn't have done it without your tireless efforts and enthusiasm.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and staff at the National CASA/GAL Association, we hope this holiday season brings an abundance of happiness and peace to you and your loved ones.