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Awards of Excellence winners inspire us to do better

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June 24, 2019

Awards of Excellence winners inspire us to do better

The CASA/GAL model started more than 40 years ago, and in those decades, hundreds of thousands of committed volunteers, staff members, judges and others have made a lifelong difference to individual children.

Each year, through the Awards of Excellence, we honor a few people and programs that inspire us to become better, and to do better, on behalf of the children we all serve.

This year’s winners were announced at our annual conference earlier this month. Here they are!


The G.F. Bettineski Child Advocate of the Year Award recognizes a volunteer who has made significant contributions to promoting the best interests of these children, and who supports the CASA/GAL program in their community.

This year’s winner is Mr. Jeff Sprinkle, a volunteer for Northeast Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates. Mr. Sprinkle has distinguished himself in part through his understanding of the critical importance of children’s connection with their family members. Through his advocacy, he has helped many children achieve and maintain that connection.

The Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award, named for one of our long-term partners, was created to recognize the exceptional work program directors do every day. The recipient of this award is someone who has taken significant actions to establish or expand a CASA/GAL program.

Ms. Cynthia Chauvin joined CASA of Hancock County five years ago and has since expanded program revenue by over 400 percent and achieved the goal of serving all children in foster care in the county. During that time, she has maintained a commitment to best practices and quality advocacy that measurably improves children’s lives.

The National CASA/GAL Association Board Member of the Year Award was created to honor an individual who exemplifies outstanding leadership and commitment to their CASA or GAL program through their role as a member of a board of directors or advisory council.

The Board Member of the Year is Ms. Charlotte Burton, a member of the board of CASA of Ohio Valley, a local program in Kentucky. Ms. Burton is both a long-standing board member and a CASA volunteer. She has worked on fundraising, recruitment, staff appreciation, as a spokesperson and more, in support of CASA of Ohio Valley and the children they serve. She was also a driving force behind the program’s establishment 25 years ago.

The Promising Practices Spotlight highlights a successful, replicable practice that exemplifies creativity in a program’s pursuit to provide that quality advocacy.

This year, Texas CASA was recognized for its Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) program. CFE is a unique partnership between a CASA program and child protective services. Through CFE, CASA programs in Texas work with their local child protective services agency to find and involve family members in children’s lives, and to establish a wraparound support system for families so they can keep their children safe.

The Honorable David W. Soukup Judge of the Year Award, named for the founder of the CASA model, honors the outstanding contributions of a judge who has advanced the best interests of children through support of the CASA/GAL model.

Judge Shawna Schwarz of Santa Clara County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, in San Jose, California has been named Judge of the Year. Judge Schwarz, who has also been named California’s Juvenile Dependency Judge of the Year, has served on the bench for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has introduced special initiatives in support of children in foster care. She introduced specialty courts to ensure children are receiving the appropriate services. She hosts a monthly meeting of various agencies to help partner work cohesively in support of families. She does a weekly review of all psychotropic medication orders to ensure dependent children are not over-medicated. She even helps train new CASA volunteers.

The prestigious Children’s Champion Award is for an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution at the national level to improving the lives of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. It recognizes a partnership that is critical to the growth and advancement of our service to America’s most vulnerable children.

The winner of this award is Kappa Alpha Theta, an organization that exemplifies our values and a steadfast commitment to our mission. Since 1989, every member of Kappa Alpha Theta has learned about the CASA program within the first few weeks of joining the organization. Every year, we gain thousands and thousands of champions for our mission. Thetas have become interwoven in the CASA/GAL mission at the local, state and national levels. Thetas are judges. They are board members, program directors, and volunteers. They are fundraisers, champions for our federal funding, and networkers. They have even helped start new CASA and GAL programs.