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National CASA/GAL announces the 2023 Awards of Excellence winners

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June 13, 2023

National CASA/GAL announces the 2023 Awards of Excellence winners


The 2023 Awards of Excellence winners were announced at a celebration event on Monday, June 12, during the National CASA/GAL 2023 Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO. The Awards of Excellence honors volunteers, staff, judges, program directors and others who have exemplified excellence in their efforts to provide best-interest advocacy for children who have experienced abuse or neglect.

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. This year’s winners all demonstrate a commitment to the children of their communities and to the mission of National CASA/GAL.



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


Appleton, WI | Dawn Gohlke, Executive Director

For over 10 years, CASA of the Fox Cities has been providing a voice to Outagamie County’s most vulnerable youth, by training nearly 400 volunteers to serve more than 600 children. Like many other nonprofit agencies, CASA of the Fox Cities struggled to garnish the resources and time needed to build a sustainable program. This is when they created a unique donor experience to tell the story of children in the child welfare system that focused on bringing the confidential practices they see into the spotlight. Through a mock dispositional hearing, and an agency tour that highlighted the individual progress of a child from assignment to permanency, CASA of the Fox Cities was able to create an impactful and moving experience that allowed its donors, volunteers and partners to step into the life of a child in the system. This donor experience not only cultivated donor relationships but also reached more volunteers. As a result, CASA of the Fox Cities grew the number of children it served from 106 to 240 (55% of eligible children) and increased its revenue budget from $275,000 to $790,000 over the last six years.



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.


CASA of Southwest Missouri | Springfield, MO

Eric is a Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending with Guaranty Bank and has been involved in commercial banking for 18 years. Eric graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration from Missouri State University. He has been married to his wife, Carolyn for 17 years and they have two boys, Austin, age 12, and Bryce, age 10. Eric is involved in a variety of community activities. He has been involved with CASA of Southwest Missouri for over 8 years, serving as a board member, President, Vice President, Secretary, and currently, as the Capital Campaign Chair, where he helped CASA of SW Missouri raise almost $3,700,000 in funds in less than one year. Eric has been involved with Habitat of Humanity for over 10 years as a board member and former treasurer. He is a current board member of the Westside Optimist Club and a past president. Eric is currently a City Councilmen and Mayor Pro Tem for the city of Republic. Outside of work and his various charitable activities, he enjoys spending time at the Lake of the Ozarks with his family and attending his children’s various sporting activities.



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.


Fourth Judicial District Court | Missoula, MT

Judge Leslie Halligan is a general jurisdiction judge serving the Montana Fourth Judicial District Court. Governor Steve Bullock appointed Judge Halligan to the bench in 2015; she was elected in 2016 and 2018. From 2012-2015, Judge Halligan presided over family law matters as a Standing Master. Judge Halligan is a member of the National CASA/GAL Judicial Leadership Council and assists with local CASA training in Missoula. She currently chairs the Missoula County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which seeks to facilitate systemic changes in the County’s justice system, maximize available resources, improve social justice, and enhance public safety. As a 1981 Truman Scholar and now Judge, she is committed to public service, access to justice, and ensuring procedural fairness and respect to individuals in the justice system. Judge Halligan and her husband raised three sons, and became foster parents, providing respite care and fostering adolescents for approximately ten years.

Prior to her judicial work, she served as a Missoula Deputy County Attorney, managing mental health, dependency, and delinquency cases for more than 20 years. Judge Halligan earned her undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Montana and a J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law (now Blewett School of Law) in 1986. Judge Halligan worked at the UM law school as a clinical supervisor for the Defender Project and as an adjunct professor in child advocacy and juvenile law. As President of the State Bar of Montana from 2017-2018, she focused on improving access to justice and attorney wellness.



The State Director of the Year Award honors a state director who has taken action to establish or develop the state network and has demonstrated commitment to applying the National CASA/GAL mission, vision and strategic framework at a state level.


Tennessee CASA | Murfreesboro, TN

Lynne Farrar has been in the nonprofit field serving children and families for 32 years, 18 of which have been with CASA. In 2014, Farrar became the State Director for Tennessee CASA Association with the mission to support, develop, expand and unite local CASA programs in recruiting and training volunteers to advocate for Tennessee’s abused and neglected children. The TN CASA Network consists of 31 programs serving 54 counties with over 1,600 volunteers advocating for 5,200 abused children in juvenile court.

Farrar had served as the executive director of CASA Works, Inc., a local CASA program serving Bedford, Coffee, and Franklin Counties, since 2010. Prior to serving as executive director of CASA Works, Farrar was the associate director for The Center for Family Development in Shelbyville, TN, creating the original CASA program serving Bedford and Coffee counties since 2000. Farrar has been a rural advisor for the National CASA Association and previously served on the National CASA/GAL State Leadership Council and the National Leadership Council. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and business from Middle Tennessee State University.

Farrar is active on many community and state-level committees. She serves as the Chair of the Children’s Advisory Council; Chair of the Court Improvement Committee of Tennessee’s Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice and Child Sexual Abuse; member of the Tennessee Young Child Wellness Council and the Court Improvement Committee of the Administrative Office of the Courts.



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


Snohomish County Office of the Court Appointed Special Advocate | Everett, WA

Christi first attended CASA/GAL volunteer pre-service training in Spring of 2007 after completing an internship in Snohomish County Adult Drug Court. She was sworn in as a CASA volunteer in May 2007 with the Snohomish County Office of the Court Appointed Special Advocate, and has been advocating for children for the past 16 years. She has advocated for over 16 families and close to 40 children in her time as a CASA volunteer. According to the program, over 50% of Christi’s cases have resulted in reunification although she has been involved with all the permanent plans in her tenure as a volunteer advocate. Christi is a co-founder of her local division of JEDI Collective. The “Collective” is an inclusive group of volunteers and staff collectively focusing on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion to cultivate racial justice in child welfare, starting with the CASA division. She recently represented her CASA program on Legislative HB-1227 Task Force, the Keeping Families Together Act.

Outside of this volunteer role, Christi is a mother of two adult children (ages 23 & 25) and works full-time for a home & auto insurance company where she works in vendor management and purchasing. She likes to read, is a huge fan of her local sports team, and enjoys doing things with her family and friends. She is also active in her local school district’s high school sports helping at football games, wrestling matches, and track meets.



The Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award, named for one of National CASA/GAL’s long-time 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.


CASA of Santa Barbara County | Santa Maria, CA

Kim Colby Davis is an accomplished leader in child welfare with a proven track record of building successful programs to support abused and neglected children. As Executive Director of CASA of Santa Barbara County, she achieved a remarkable 340% growth, expanding from serving 125 children annually to supporting over 500. Davis has held leadership positions in other organizations and served on various boards and committees related to child welfare. Her visionary approach to program development and strategic planning has resulted in significant achievements. Through her exceptional leadership and dedication to vulnerable children and families, Davis has made a lasting impact, earning respect and admiration from colleagues and community members.