Inspiring Us This Week: CASA of NWA

Each week, we’d like to take time to do a #FeatureFriday on an organization that is doing big things for child poverty in our community. We at the United Way of NWA are fortunate to have many, many organizations that we’re proud to come alongside and make a difference on a daily basis, impacting children in our own backyard.

This week, we’re proud to be featuring CASA of Northwest Arkansas. We asked Colleen Smith of CASA NWA to share a little bit about their plans for their “Lifelong Links” program that received First Step Funding under the Children Living In Poverty (CLIP) initiative from United Way NWA. Take a look at what Colleen has to say about the purpose and vision of this program! We can’t wait to hear more success stories from our friends at CASA.

CASA of Northwest Arkansas is grateful for the United Way for selecting our Lifelong Links project for funding through the Children Living in Poverty initiative. Lifelong Links (LLL) is a family finding program for teenagers in foster care. Teens targeted for this program are seasoned veterans of the system and will likely age out with little if any support system in place. Because of this, these young people are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to end up incarcerated and/or homeless than their peers. Lifelong Links aims to change the course of these children’s lives by building a network of familial relationships to provide consistent support, a sense of identity, and a home outside of the foster care system (physical permanency).

Similar to the traditional CASA advocacy program, Lifelong Links is supervised by CASA staff but carried out by trained volunteers from the community. This efficiency allows more young people to receive these services.

“This grant will enable us to direct some much needed services into a largely underserved population,” said Ryan Brashears, the CASA supervisor for Lifelong Links. “These kids have been through so much, many of them have spent years in the system housed in group homes, facilities, and foster homes if they’re lucky. There may be biological family members out there who are ready and willing to take them in but either don’t know that the child is in care or don’t know what to do about it. Every child deserves to know their family.

Thank you to United Way for supporting this pathway out of poverty for some of our most deserving children.