2021 Awards nominations
Attorney Advocate of the Year – Andrea Ostrowski
Prior to becoming our CASA dedicated attorney, Andrea was working in this court as a court appointed attorney and a GAL. Her understanding of best interest is evident, and she advocates for every child with everything that she has. Andrea supports the family unit, respecting the case plan process and the steps Children’s Services is tasked to get families healthy and strong enough enough to get their children back.
Andrea is not just a go-with-the-flow, keep the peace type of person. She is not afraid to be the one voice fighting for the unpopular option or the option no one else supports. If she does not believe in something, she will not support it. This includes things like opposing 6-month extensions when parents have not shown enough progress, case plan services where boxes have merely been checked without sustained behavior changes, or transitioning children back to their homes too quickly or without gradual progression.
As our program’s longest standing CASA dedicated attorney, she has become quite the guru, and others frequently ask for her advice – newer CASA dedicated attorneys, attorneys representing parents, and even prosecutors representing Children’s Services. These parties appear content when they know Andrea is in support of their motions; otherwise, they know they’re going to battle.
Andrea does not keep track of her win / loss record. She is satisfied knowing she gave every CASA the best advice and the best direction, and knowing she filed every motion she could to uphold the best interests of the children. Andrea is a fierce litigator. She has excellent cross examination skills, often clarifying the points other attorneys were trying to make through their direct or cross examinations.
Social Worker of the Year – Francisco Argondizza
Francisco has gone over and beyond in his efforts serving abused and neglected children in Ohio. He has used the Family Connections software every single day to find families for children. But he has also gone over and beyond for children for whom he cannot find relatives. For example, he combed through the county registry records, searched on Google maps, interviewed neighbors, and used our software to track down and find one particular neighbor for a child because that was the only connection that child remembered having a special bond with. This is just an example of the level of diligence and commitment Francisco has for children in foster care in Ohio.
Francisco supports any organization that is for the betterment of youth, such as CASA/GAL or in his region, he works in tandem with Guardian Ad Litem on cases. He has a high level of professional ethics and respect for the judicial system and CASA program and utilizes all available resources to make sure that his youth’s needs are being served in the best interest of the client.
Pro Star Volunteer of the Year – Herb Homan
Herb epitomizes the ideal CASA Volunteer. By showing up to cheer at their extracurricular activities, advocating at school meetings, speaking up for their best interests at family team meetings and court hearings, as well as being there to listen or play checkers, children who are fortunate enough to have Herb as their advocate are assured they are seen, heard, and valued.
Herb was sworn in as a Richland County CASA Volunteer in August 2016. In the past five years, he has been appointed to eight cases and advocated for the best interest of 21 children who have been placed from Richland to Ross Counties. In 2020 when in-person training was practically non-existent, Herb recorded 21 1/2 hours of continuing professional development in addition to the seven-session NACC Red Book Training Course on child welfare law.
Herb’s strength in his demeanor and temperament, not only with the children for whom he is advocating but with the parents. He has the ability to speak on what is in the best interest of children he is advocating for with thoroughness, passion, and calmness in a way that grasps the attention of every listener — families, caseworkers, attorneys, and judicial officials. He doesn’t hesitate to go against the grain when advocating for children and backs up every word with information from the research he has obtained from records and by speaking with parents, caseworkers, caregivers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, counselors, doctors, etc.
“A child who is the subject of a CASA case touches many people. Everyone wants what is in the best interest of the child; however, there is often disagreement about the best path. A CASA has the opportunity to provide valuable insight into these complex and emotional situations. I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this honorable pursuit.” -Herb Homan, CASA Volunteer since August 26, 2016
Rising Star Volunteer of the Year – Richelle Jose
Richelle goes absolutely above and beyond on each case that she has been appointed to. She has only been a case for a little over two years. When presenting Richelle with a case, she always has a positive attitude and is willing to help out. She is willing to serve on each case that she is presented. During the pandemic she carried a case with one child, and put in 420 hours of volunteer time.
She is relatable and caring. She places herself in the childs situation, and digs deep to bring out really what the child needs. She does not give up, and works hard to ensure the Court hears what she has to say. For example, the local CPS agency was ready to back out on this child three separate times, however, Richelle fought and gave her recommendations to the Court and the Court ruled on her position EACH time. This child had a lot going on and had someone in his corner to fight for him when others wanted to back out.
This past year, Richelle served on a case with one teenage male child. This child has a lot of trauma in his life due to the relationship of his mother and father. His parents are divorced, and he has different issues at each household. Richelle made herself available day in and day out for this child. He needed someone outside of mom and dad to talk with when he was at his visitations. Richelle dropped whatever she was doing and made herself available each time. This child was super closed in, reserved and quiet, but due to Richelle’s willingness to be there for him, he now talks and is more open with what is going on in his life. During the pandemic with no school in session, this child was unable to work remotely, failing each class in school. Richelle would go to his school each week, pick up any missed assignments, and run it over to him to ensure he was getting his assignments in person to complete. He now has passed to the next grade. Anything this child needed, Richelle ensured it was done. She impacted his life SO much in SO many ways.