2019 Award winners

Attorney Advocate of the Year – Kimberly Jordan

Kim Jordan has spent much of her professional career advocating for children in the juvenile courts, both in Franklin county and elsewhere. In addition to her own direct representation, she is also Director of the Justice for Children Project at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Associate Clinical Professor of Law. In this capacity, she supervises and mentors third year law students in direct representation of youth in the juvenile courts, in immigration matters, and as GALs for youth. Kim also serves as a GAL herself. Kim goes above and beyond the “official duties” of an attorney, seeking to advocate for her clients in any way they may need it.

Through her work as a GAL, presenting at the annual Ohio CASA conference in the past, and directing a clinical program which teaches law students how to be effective GALs, navigate the juvenile courts, and advocate for youth clients. Kim strives to treat her clients with he utmost care and goes above and beyond in her assistance to them. She instills this same passion and dedication in her students, helping shape a new generation of attorneys to serve youth.

Social Worker of the Year – Julie Tipton

To 25 year veteran of Miami County Child Protective Services Julie Tipton, the welfare of children is her priority. Early on, she chose to work in the community where she grew up and has devoted her career to helping children achieve permanency, safety and stability in their lives. Ms. Tipton serves as a placement caseworker and placement coordinator for her agency, but her role in the lives of children is so much more. She is an encourager, helping children to find their strengths and abilities then creating opportunities for them to use those. A foster child with whom she worked had interest and ability in art, so Ms. Tipton helped her to pursue appropriate education and employment. She is a supporter, actively backing children in their interests and education. For a young man in foster care with an avid interest in weather, Ms. Tipton arranged a tour to the National Weather Service so he could see what a career in that field would look like. That same young man has been a member of his high school band and Ms. Tipton has ensured that he has had everything he has needed to participate and to succeed. She is a boundary setter who has expectations for the children she serves and is consistent in helping them to comply with those. Her foster kids who are employed may not always agree but know Ms. Tipton’s expectations regarding saving and spending. Finally, she is a protector, finding safe environments for hard to place children.

Ms. Tipton has worked beside CASA volunteers for many years and clearly understands the mission of CASA and the CASA’s role in a case. She looks to the CASA volunteer for input and opinion and treats each CASA as a valuable member of the child’s treatment team. Ms. Tipton is a wealth of information as the CASA gathers information for court reports and gladly shares what she knows. She makes herself accessible to the CASA volunteer and she includes the CASA as part of her home visits. When there is disagreement between her and the CASA, she actively listens to concerns and works along with the CASA for a resolution. Overall, Ms. Tipton goes out of her way to assist the CASA in performing his/her duties. In any given case, Ms. Tipton maintains consistent communication with the CASAs involved in her cases. From regular phone calls, text messages and emails to share the most updated information in a case to keeping the CASA apprised of medical appointments to sharing about a child’s therapeutic progress, Ms. Tipton is excellent about establishing and maintaining a team approach in her work. This collaborative approach, in turn, allows the CASA volunteer to effectively advocate for the child’s best interest.

Although humorous by nature, Ms. Tipton takes her obligations and responsibilities to the children and the families she serves very seriously. She is a caseworker who conducts herself with the highest level of integrity. Her greatest attributes are her non-judgmental attitude toward clients and colleagues alike, and the respectful, accepting way in which she treats the individual; she meets her children and their families where they are. Ms. Tipton has a reputation with CASAs, service providers and, most particularly, her children and their families for being honest, fair and trustworthy. Thinking outside the box for solutions to unique issues that come up in a case seems to come naturally to her and she is persistent when she feels that a child will benefit. When a young man with whom she has been working for many years proposed how he could connect with some biological family members in another state, Ms. Tipton’s decision to allow the contact depended heavily upon the opinion of the child’s CASA and his therapist. She collaborated with his treatment team and the contact has not only been a bright spot in this child’s life, but, more importantly, it proved to be in his best interest as well. Her professionalism and preparedness have earned her esteem with the Court. Her verbal reports to the Court are concise, yet thorough. She knows her role within the judicial process and operates within it. CASAs and others appreciate her strong communication skills, and, her sense of teamwork is second to none.

Pro-Star Volunteer of the Year – Kathleen Hopkins

Kathi Hopkins has been a CASA volunteer since December of 2012. In that time, she has advocated for 16 children from 7 different families. Kathi has logged more than 1080 hours and driven mover 13, 190 miles. Kathi does not shy away from the more difficult cases. From addicted babies to families with 4+ children, Kathi is always willing to step in and advocate for the best interests of the children she is serving. One of her newest cases involved three children whose mother over dosed and died in front of them. The children were placed almost an hour away with their adult sister. Understanding the trauma the children have been through, Kathi has gone out of her way to visit them and assess their stability in their placement and ensure they are getting the necessary services to address their history. In the three months she has been working the case, Kathi has logged more than 42.5 hours investigating, visiting the children, attending educational meetings, and meeting with the extended family. Due to the complexity of the case, Kathi has gone above and beyond “normal” expectations for a new case. She has worked closely with the placement and when it became apparent that the placement was not going to be a long term option, she able to provide needed information to help identify another family member to care for the children. In addition to her cases, Kathi is always willing to help out during our role play for the pre-service portion of our training. She embraces her role as the auntie and always contributes to the learning experience of our newest CASAs. Kathi has always met the required 12 hours of in-service each year and has willingly participated in various activities to promote our program including the Super Hero 5K where she recruited a team of super heroes to walk and raise money.

Kathi faithfully visits the children she represents monthly and writes court reports with tremendous detail and objectivity. She approaches each child and family with fairness, objectivity and professionalism. Kathi always conducts comprehensive investigations, has great attention to detail, and works with all parties necessary to ensure that her children’s educational, medical and emotional needs are being met. Recently she had a child placed in Florida but that did not prevent her for following up with his Florida service providers and caseworkers to ensure he was getting the appropriate services to meet his needs. Kathi is not afraid to stand alone on a particular issue and she is able to clearly articulate her concerns and her recommendations even if that means not agreeing with Children Services agency when it comes to the best interest of the children she is serving.

Kathi is an attorney by profession who has always had a passion for helping at risk children. She felt a calling to contribute more so she became a CASA volunteer in December of 2012. Kathi has always exhibited the highest level of ethics in her work as a CASA. Her reports are very well written and her recommendations are highly respected and accepted. She embraces her role as a CASA volunteer and always adheres to the program’s standards, especially when it comes to monthly visits, court reports, monthly case updates and continuing education requirements. Caseworkers and attorneys alike respect Kathi and consider her input regarding the best interests of the children she is representing.

Rising Star Volunteer of the Year – James McGrath

On January 25, 2018 Jim was assigned to a case involving a 16 year old child by the name of D. This child suffered from mental illness, suicidal ideations, and a few psychiatric hospitalizations. D was having difficulty with behaviors in her home and school. Her relationship with her mother was deteriorating to a point she had to be placed into a shelter for juveniles. She was eventually placed with her father, which did not work out either. D needed help. Once Jim became her CASA-GAL, he immediately began his interviewing, research and investigation. In order to advocate for D he wanted to know everything about her in relation to her herself, her parents, her medical and mental health history and educational history. Jim began to develop a trust and a bond with D quickly. He began to speak with mental health professionals at the psychiatric hospital to ensure what treatment and medication plans where in place. He spoke with teacher and guidance counselors to see what the issues where with her behaviors, grades and attendance. He spoke directly to each parent and worked with them to motivate them in helping their child and being active in her life as it pertained to her education and mental health. As the case continued on for months, Jim put in various hours of continued monitoring by speaking with D’s various counselors and therapists, school officials, children services, parents, etc. Jim attending various meetings in regards to D’s educational plans, therapeutic plans, medication reviews, various ongoing court hearings, family team meetings, etc. Jim commitment and dedication in his role as a CASA-GAL and his consistent work in aggressively advocating for D to help make a difference in her life and to make sure every possible help and assistance was being provided to her. D was understanding that her CASA-GAL was there for her and was speaking up for her best interests.

Jim’s organizational, investigative, interviewing, writing, and motivational skills are impeccable. His skill’s and consistent efforts to advocate for D was helping her. She began to do better in school attendance and in her behaviors. His aggressive interacting with the parents to empower and engage them their daughter was helping. Near the end of this case, D returned back to her mother’s custody. Her mother finally understood her importance to make sure D attended school daily, see her counselors and therapists, and take her prescribed medication. Through Jim’s strong advocating for D, she began feeling better about herself, was getting good grades in school, was taking her medication, which was helping behaviors and balancing her out and addressing her mental illness. D and her mother’s relationship became stronger and she has been able to stop further self-harming or having suicidal ideations. Jim’s work on this case is a great example on how one can make a difference in the life of a child when you put the hard work and time into it. One child at a time!

Jim is extremely ethical. He understands is roles and boundaries as a CASA-GAL and takes them very seriously. He is extremely knowledgeable in the rules, regulations and processes of the program and court. Jim is very professional in his communications with court officials, caseworkers, magistrates, school officials, parents, etc. He is very open and to the point, which everyone respects. He is truly the eyes and ears for the court when it comes to speaking up for the best interest of D and helping the court make good decisions regarding her future. Jim always ensures that he completes his required annual continuing education for the program and is very active in the community. Jim turned 71 this past March, 2019.

Child Advocate of the Year – Senator Rob McColley

This year’s Child Advocate of the Year is Senator Rob McColley. Most recently, Ohio was one of only five states in the country that did not receive funding from the state legislature. Senator McColley and his colleagues have changed that. Through Senator McColley’s leadership, the state budget for the next two years includes funding to help support the work of already existing programs and to continue expansion until we reach all children, in all 88 counties.