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CAB Connection - May 2021

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Volunteer Spotlight

Ellen Sandberg Shook, CASA Volunteer

When Ellen was asked how she became interested in serving as a CASA Advocate she said, “I became interested in becoming a CASA volunteer after reading something about the role of a CASA. I wanted a volunteer activity that would be meaningful and would make a difference in someone’s life. I was invited to attend a CASA breakfast and I signed up to be a volunteer that day! I have been a CASA since October 2019 and have been involved in the same case since that time.”

Although Ellen shared she has not really had work experience which prepared her to be a child advocate, she believes that living in many parts of the United States and meeting many people has helped her to be a more well-rounded person.

Not knowing anything about the court system has been somewhat of a challenge, but Ellen followed that up with saying her CASA Coach has been very helpful in explaining anything that she didn’t understand.

Ellen believes her experience as a CASA has been rewarding in a variety of ways and stated, “The most rewarding thing has been knowing that I have actually had a chance to make a difference in the life of a child. I now know that one person on the outside CAN really make a difference.”

She feels that it is very beneficial for a child in foster care to have an advocate that is looking out for them in all aspects of their life. Everyone involved in a case is busy with other cases, but a CASA can make suggestions based on their knowledge of the child that the other people involved may not be aware of. This happened for her. “I made a suggestion that I thought would make a situation better and it was implemented. That was a win for the child!”

Local Coordinator Dawn Goerdt said, “Ellen's first CASA case has taken many twists and turns, but she has been instrumental in assuring that the child's best interests are being respected regarding communication, interactions and placement. She has formed effective and professional relationships with the child, family, foster family and the providers. Ellen is a huge asset to the CASA of Dubuque program and definitely made a difference in this child's life!”


In March 2021, the Child Advocacy Board approved a one-year pilot Foster Care Review Board in Polk County to review the cases of older youth who have the permanency goal of another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA). This has been a long-standing request that originated from the late Honorable Judge Colin Witt who believed older youth needed some additional oversight as they prepared to age out of foster care. The hope is that citizens will be able to offer ideas and recommendations for additional connections to community resources and opportunities for older youth. A group of energized individuals from the greater Des Moines area have continued to advocate for a local board in Polk County.

Coordinator Carrie Phelps and Administrative Assistant Cindy Goellnitz will support a Polk County local foster care review board in FY2022. Recruitment of volunteers to serve on this board is underway! You can help spread the word to those who may be interested in learning more about this volunteer opportunity. Additional information about the program, volunteer qualifications and training can be found on ICAB’s website: https://childadvocacy.iowa.gov/fcrb which also includes a link to apply online.

We look forward to working with youth and their families, judges, DHS, placement caregivers, attorneys, service providers and other individuals who support youth in foster care.


Jamie Adkins, CASA, Madison County Alyssa Barrantes, CASA, Polk County
Tony Berry, CASA, Polk County Lisa Cecil, CASA, Jefferson County
Sydnie Franklin, CASA, Johnson County Geriane Jordan, CASA, Johnson County
Christine Gosch, CASA, Polk County Madison Guffey, CASA, Wapello County
David Ladwig, CASA, Jasper County Linda Leeper, CASA, Polk County
Lisa Miller, CASA, Henry County Mary Savage, CASA, Polk County
Geena Staiert, CASA, Polk County Abigail Voyna, CASA, Polk County



On March 9, 2021 a group of Iowa Child Advocacy Board members, staff and volunteers descended on the Iowa State Capital for our Legislative Day. During the time we had to talk with legislators we focused on awareness of ICAB and its programs: Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Iowa Citizen Foster Care Review Board (ICFCRB). Legislators inquired about the needs and growth of the ICAB programs and many expressed an interest in our work. Volunteers and staff representing both programs came from around the state and were able to talk with anyone who had questions. They were able to share about their experiences in a generalized manner and about the needs of the children they served. We appreciated assistance in making sure that our handouts were delivered to everyone in the House, as well as being delivered to all legislators' mailboxes. Thank you to everyone who participated in-person and behind the scenes to help us introduce ICAB and the work we do on behalf of children to our Iowa legislators. Thank you to all the Legislators who welcomed us at the Capital. A plan is in place to participate with a Day on the Hill again in 2022!


Amy 1Amy 2Amy 3


Trainer's Corner:  Mental Health

For FCRB Members & CASA Advocates:

Mental Health

Increased public awareness about mental health issues is the first step towards fully supporting the millions of individuals and families who are facing the reality of living with a mental illness. NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness, provides education, support and advocacy efforts for public policies around mental health. In a country where 1 in 5 people are affected by a mental health condition, it's time for all of us to step up and change the conversation. Join Mayim Bialik and pledge to be ‪#‎StigmaFree . https://youtu.be/Gzk7sSOHGSQ

To learn more about the work happening in Iowa,  Click here  


What can you do as an Advocate or Foster Care Review Board member? 

  • Recommend a mental health evaluation of a parent or child if you are concerned that a mental health issue has gone undiagnosed or possibly untreated. We are not the expert, but we can recommend that an expert assess the issue.
  • The standards of research and definitions of mental health, illness and treatment have changed over time. It is important to be aware and sensitive to an individual’s self-stigmatization and resistance to a label, diagnosis or treatment or a family’s ethnic or cultural considerations.
  • When appropriate, you can ensure that children are provided age-appropriate explanations of their own or their parent’s diagnosis by a qualified individual.
  • When appropriate, you can advocate for holistic treatment that considers all aspects of an individual, including mental, spiritual, emotional and physical, as opposed to one-dimensional treatment.

Numerous resources are available to learn more:

Training Courses

National CASA and the Iowa CASA Program encourage and support lifelong learning by offering in-service trainings on various topics. To increase advocacy efforts, we encourage every one of our volunteers to consider taking one of our in-service training around topics specific to their case.


Classes available to Advocates and Coaches can be found here:  In-Services Available List Jan 2021.pdf  Please reach out to your Local Program Coordinator to participate in one of these classes and earn credit towards your annual 12 hours of in-service training.

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Iowa Child Advocacy Board
321 East 12th Street
4th Floor Lucas Building
Des Moines, IA  50319