Grantee submission by: Mary Kay Pivovarnik, Executive Director

How did the funding or non-monetary support you received from the Foundation impact your organization and/or the community?

CASA of Luzerne County is now in the 10th year of recruiting, training, and supporting community volunteers to be the voice of children in the Luzerne County dependency court system. Thanks to grant opportunities from Moses Taylor Foundation, 146 volunteers have served 296 children in the court system ensuring that their best interest was being met and their voices were being heard during some of the most difficult times of their lives. The staff has grown from one person to five full-time staff who multitask to ensure advocates are trained and supported to provide whole child advocacy to the children who most need it.

Share a quote or anecdotal story from a client or employee of your organization that illustrates the impact of your work.

On April 4, 2023, CASA hosted a 21st birthday party for a youth who had his final court hearing that day. The rights of the parents on this case were terminated and this youth spent years living in a group home facility. At the age of 21, he aged out of the child welfare system and moved into an adult group home where his special needs can be managed and he can live as independently as he can. He was assigned an advocate in 2019 and she not only advocated for his best interest with his health and educational needs and helped him find a voice in where he wanted live in adulthood, but she became a part of his family. This youth saw caseworkers and group home staff come and go, but his advocate was always consistent. She was his visitor on birthdays and holidays, the person he called with good and bad news, and laughed and cried with. The advocate and CASA staff  celebrated his next phase of life with him and the advocate was dismissed from the case by the court; however, she is dedicated to this young man and will remain his “person”. She will continue to be his family long after the court jurisdiction of her advocacy ends.

What do you most want the community to know about your work and/or what excites you most about the future of your organization?

CASA of Luzerne County continues to grow with the needs of the children in the community. The organization strives to see the children we serve as children and not as victims of what brought them into the child welfare system. Each child is looked at for their individual needs as well as their hopes and dreams. Every advocate makes an impact on the youth they serve. There is an immeasurable ripple effect from this volunteer experience. The staff at CASA of Luzerne County will continue to strive to train the most well-rounded, community-minded advocates to bring the youth they serve to safe and stable permanency that will enable them to become productive members of their communities.