AAWGT: Making a difference in our community!
In Honor of International Women's Day
To celebrate International Women's Day, AAWGT has a tradition of presenting a dynamic woman speaker during our March event. To continue with that trend, we are pleased to announce our 2019 speaker, Lesley Poole, Chief Executive Officer at The SEED Foundation in Washington, DC. The SEED network supports students from under-resourced communities to realize their potential and fulfill their dreams of college graduation through a unique, college-prep public boarding school model. Lesley will share a wealth of personal and professional experience about her own journey in finding her voice - and how this has translated into her work with youth. This promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking discussion about women and leadership! We hope you will join us.
CASA Volunteers Speak in Court for Foster Children
Established in 1997, Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc. (AACCASA) advocates for abused and neglected children involved in juvenile court proceedings to determine their placement. These children cannot speak for themselves. AACCASA achieves its mission through the dedicated work of volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), who represent the children with the aim of ensuring their right to stable, permanent, and loving homes.
Judges appointed 201 CASAs for 242 children in the last two years; this represents 71 percent of the children before the county courts. Of the 69 cases that were closed, children were placed in permanent, forever homes 95% of the time. The CASAs provided advocacy services that addressed the children’s overall needs (educational, psychological, medical, etc.) as well as court reports on behalf of the children. The judges indicate that the CASA volunteer reports contain thorough and unbiased information about the children, increasing the judges' opportunity to make well-informed decisions on behalf of the children. Judges note they would like a CASA assigned to every case.
Since its inception, 568 CASAs have served over 700 children. AACCASA trained 80 new CASAs in the last two years. The 2018 grant from AAWGT will enable the program to serve 25 to 30 more children this year.
AACCASA commissioned local embroidery artist Geri Finio to create a quilt that would enable 12 foster youth to share their experiences in foster care. After more than 200 hours of work, 15+ yards of fabric, batting, and with skilled embroidery, Ms. Finio created the Silenced Voices of Foster Care Quilt©.
She explains, “I created the quilt so that abused and neglected children could have a way to express what they were feeling about their experiences in care. Sometimes these children can’t come right out and say how they are feeling, so art is a good way for them to put it all out there and begin the healing process. It’s important for these children to realize that what happens to them as children doesn’t have to define them as adults. We envision that any child who sees the quilt while it’s on display in the CASA office will see that there are others who share similar experiences and there is always hope for a brighter future.” Rebecca Tingle, Executive Director for Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc. says, “The project was in the works for well over a year, and we are so grateful to Geri for her vision and her passion for what we do.”
AAWGT launched the 2019 educational program year on February 13 with a powerful presentation on how much further the military needs to move to fully welcome women soldiers.
Returning service women often face issues similar to those of returning male veterans - PTSD, depression, and relationship problems with children and with spouses. Unlike male veterans, however, women veterans are much more likely to have been the victims of military sexual trauma and are three to four times more likely to become homeless. One of the greatest barriers to women accessing VA medical benefits, including mental health services, is that many don't understand they are eligible. Fear of stigma, lack of child care, and long lead times for appointments are other barriers for women in need of mental health care. Despite the stories of hardships and the constant struggle to win respect and recognition of women as veterans, it was a hopeful evening, led by four strong women who are working and advocating to better the experience for active and veteran military women.
For additional research and articles about women veterans, read this summary of the event. website.
It’s impossible to open the paper without seeing evidence of our hyper-partisan environment: it’s in the headlines, the news articles and especially on the editorial page. This political polarization makes it difficult to have conversations except with those who we know share our political beliefs. But how will we ever bridge that gap if we don’t talk to one another?
Philanthropy is one way to get past the partisan divide. We need to remind ourselves why we got involved in philanthropy in the first place: the belief in the capacity of people to do good and become better. We have an even better opportunity with AAWGT to rise above the partisanship and focus on the needs of our community. Yes, we use our collective dollars to do good. But by engaging with the organization itself, we can come together and work with women who may not share our political beliefs but do share the desire to help those who can get lost in the back and forth of the political football.
With deep appreciation,
Sue Pitchford, President
Sheila Onuska, Vice-President and President-Elect