Reno –Washoe County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) hosted a conference on September 30th and October 1st at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino about the important topic of understanding childhood trauma.
The effects of trauma can be profound and long lasting, and the enduring impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can shape the lives of youth and adults, presenting physical, psychological and social challenges. The conference focused on educating CASA volunteers in becoming more trauma-informed when assisting children and youth in the foster care system.
CASAs are Court Appointed Special Advocates for the Second Judicial District Court, and after training, volunteers are empowered directly by the court to offer judges critical information they need to ensure that a child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in safe, permanent homes. There are more than 900 children in foster care in Washoe County, with only 100 CASAs active in our local community.
On Friday, September 29th, the Honorable Egan Walker, Washoe County Second Judicial District Court and member of the Board of Directors for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges delivered a welcome address to the audience of 98 attendees.
Shawn Marsh, Ph.D., director of judicial studies, associate professor of communication studies and social psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno was a featured presenter. Dr. Marsh is versed in childhood trauma and trauma-informed justice, with an extensive background working on issues such as child welfare, juvenile justice, school engagement and trauma/victimization.
On Saturday, October 1st, there were presentations by Virginia Castleman, Reno resident and author of Sara Lost and Found, a story about two sisters being separated in the foster care system; and Valerie Zwyssig, Ed.S, MFT, LADC who spoke about working with trauma-impacted children. In addition, Marynne Aaronson, LCSW and Denise Linaman, MFT delivered key insights on the effects of child trauma. Lastly, Mary Herzik, MA, family services program manager of the Second Judicial Court, updated the audience on the new dog therapy program implemented in district court.
“It is critical that our CASA volunteers understand what trauma is and its impact on child development and behavior,” said Herzik. “When we understand the conditions of healing, we can respond to trauma and work to instill resilience, strength and determination in the children who are part of the foster care system.”
The Washoe County CASA Program is one of 949 state and local CASA organizations that recruit, train and support CASA volunteers to serve as a voice for abused and neglected children.
For more information about becoming a volunteer with the Second Judicial Court’s CASA Program, please call 775.328.3298 or visit the Washoe CASA Foundation at washoecasafoundation.com.