Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas of Warmth, Love

The CASA Kids Christmas Store will be open Dec. 17 for foster parents to give kids a good Christmas

Erin Green
Record Vistas Editor

Imagine a 5-year-old boy going hungry because his mom’s buying drugs to feed her habit rather than food to feed her son.

Imagine a 10-year-old girl whose dad beats her up for the slightest reason — or, for no reason at all.

Imagine a 12-year-old girl and her 10-year-old brother who can’t wear short sleeves because the bruises will show where their mother’s boyfriend beat them.

Imagine a 7-year-old who is molested regularly by a family member.

Imagine being a child in any of these situations.

Imagine being the child who doesn’t want to leave school at the end of every school day — the child who hates the weekends because of the horrible things that go on at home, the child who goes hungry becasue of a parents’ drug habit or the child who doesn’t know where his parents are or when he might eat next.

Imagine being the child whose teacher, neighbor or guardian steps in to help.

Imagine going to a foster home filled with things you may have never had, filled with food and warmth and love.

Imagine being such a child.

The need is incredible, said Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, executive director of Chaves County CASA. The recession is one reason, but the holiday season is also a major factor — child abuse rises during the holiday season, she said. And, unfortunately, because of the state budget deficit and budget cuts coming from Santa Fe, “there is no money or resources to help abused kids this year,” Cloutier said. While no programs have yet been cut locally, Cloutier called the cuts “enormous,” adding since the recession began, CASA’s seen more than $200,000 in contracts cut. But the cuts don’t stop abuse and neglect, she said. In fact, at times such as these, they often see situations worsen. “Everything compounds during the holidays,” Cloutier said. “We see the stress start after Halloween. After Thanksgiving, it explodes. ... The pressure on families becomes worse. The tensions in the families becomes worse. Custody battles become worse. The tensions in families who can’t provide, the family that can’t buy groceries but the son wants in iPod — these donations help prevent child abuse.”

And that is why the CASA Kids Christmas Store helps make the holidays brighter for area foster kids, Cloutier said. CASA serves more than 1,000 children from birth through age 18 in Chaves County each year who have been abused, abandoned, neglected, sexually molested, at-risk or who are victims of domestic violence. Many of those children are profoundly underprivileged and have never received a gift, Cloutier said.

That’s where CASA’s Kids Christmas Store comes in. Through community donations, CASA will open its Christmas Store from 1-5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, for parents and foster parents to come to CASA’s offices to shop for free among the toys, clothing, bicycles and other gifts available for the programs’ children and youth.

Especially needed are items for teenagers and items such as T-shirts, underwear and socks, which are distributed to youth at the Juvenile Detention Center.
“So often they’re kids who are not bad kids,” Cloutier said. “They’ve just had zero family support. Often, they’ve been abused. They just need a break.”

Donated items are due to the CASA offices, 500 N. Main St., Ste. 310, in the Bank of America building, by by 5 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 16.

Luckily for CASA, donations are already coming in — Cloutier received four shopping carts’ worth of toys and $270 in cash from the staff of KBIM 94.9, collected during a five-hour period in front of Walmart through its Make A Smile Happen toy collection drive. “We want to thank the outpouring of the community.” said Tom A. Ruiz of KBIM. “Without them, we couldn’t have made this happen.” Cloutier said she is always extremely grateful for the community support and by those in the community who go above and beyond to help CASA. “We’re always just mind-boggled by the generosity and by the hopes that we will be able to continue our programs,” Cloutier said, adding that the people can donate through the CASA website,

For more information about CASA, or to donate, call 625-0112, visit 500 N. Main St., Ste. 310, or log onto

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Message from Emma's Puppy Raiser

A Message from Candy Jones, Emma's Puppy Raiser at Assistance Dogs of the West in Santa Fe

Puppy Raisers

It was a cold January afternoon when I first walked up the exterior staircase en route to the offices of Assistance Dogs of the West. The cold I experienced on the uphill climb vanished once I made my way into the inner sanctum of ADW. In a row of crates containing peaceful, almost cherubic lab and golden faces, I saw quiet inquisitive beautiful dogs with tilted heads that seemed to say “Hi, who are you”?

My previous volunteer hours had been spent with Animal Rescue organizations where the first football place in the kennel area was sure fire stimulation for a cavalcade of barks, not all of which were particularly inviting. I reveled in the contrast.

At ADW, the canine welcome was warm and peaceful. My instructor Sue gathered us together in the classroom area where she disseminated a notebook and study guide, an overview of what our puppy raiser class would consist of, and an understanding of the curriculum and ultimate goal: a successful completion of the Public Access Test which would permit us each the privilege of escorting our puppies out in public.

For the next several months I spent Thursday afternoons with my classmates, Peggy, Penny and Sue soaking up the ninety some-odd cues with which ADW dogs are proficient. As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, I struggled with dispensing with my age-old body language, which is part of what modern day dog trainers promote…body language along with verbal cues. In the world of the disabled, arms and legs and hands and their associated abilities cannot be counted on and so assistance dogs understand English so much better than the typical canine!

I started working with Emma, a delightful, petite, athletic Golden Retriever. She came to ADW a little older as a rescue dog. Emma was unapologetic in her love for fast moving birds, but her devotion to me and her patience in trying to understand my virgin assistance dog language was appreciated. By April we had earned our wings and had passed our Public Access test. Emma moved in bringing only her vest and a beautifully crafted, braided ADW leash. She developed a close relationship with my 2-1/2 year old 143 pound Great Pyrenees Gabriel and my record producer husband Larry who became so devoted to Emma she was invited into his recording studio on numerous attentions to hang out and enjoy the musical production process. Emma and I spent hours between training sessions hiking around the high dessert of NM. Off leash, Emma’s graceful lightweight frame splashed across the wildflowers on assignment toward low flying meadowlarks and desert jays. For less natural outings, we went malling, to dinner, checked out some great movies, perused the dog sections of many a bookstore, and plodded through the impressive selection of treats in dog food establishments. Beef liver came out as the overall winner.

On Thursday nights we met with other like-minded Assistance Dogs teams and promenaded around the Santa Fe Plaza in search of musical performances, improved response to cues, and companionship. At night, Emma voluntarily offered her presence down below my bed just below my left arm. She worked her way into my home, my heart, and by my side, where she perched for several months until the call came for her forever home as a Courthouse dog in Roswell, New Mexico. Emma leaves this month for points south to help traumatized children as they make their way through the courthouse process. I have already given Emma her new Roswell name: Undefined Flying Object, as I know that given the chance that she will take to the Roswell desert in moments of true freedom flying across the landscape there.

I am honored to be of assistance to ADW assistance dogs. They have made my life richer and more meaningful.

Candy Jones

Cookie Lee Jewelry Party Fundraiser for CASA

Cookie Lee Jewelry consultant Kathy Thatcher is putting on a Cookie Lee Jewelry Party with proceeds to benefit the CASA Program.

What a great way to finish your Christmas shopping and help CASA too.

Join us in the CASA Office from 11:00 to 1:00 on Thursday, December 16th for all the fun!

Find the Cookie Lee catalog here!

Children's Law Institute Registration Now Open

2011 Children's Law Institute: Children and Families Need Us Now More Than Ever...

We’re in challenging and changing times. our budgets are smaller; we’re being asked to do more with less; our caseloads are more complicated. But the truth is, children and families need us now more than ever. And now more than ever we need to come together as a community, re-invigorate ourselves, hone our skills, and find inspiration. This year, the CLI will offer 35 workshops and plenary speakers designed to refresh our thinking about core topics, inspire our days with new ideas, and hopefully leave us feeling rejuvenated–because our work is needed–now more than ever.

To that end, we’re thrilled to welcome the new Mexico Slam Poetry Team to help open the conference. Slam Poetry is a performance art that can be used to tell stories from the heart. The Slam Poetry team will honor us with a performance piece written specially for the Children’s Law Institute.

On Friday, back by popular demand, Father Greg Boyle will join us to close the conference with stories of hope, redemption and loss from his book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. As executive Director of Homeboy Industries and an acknowledged expert on gangs and intervention approaches, Fr. Boyle is a nationally renowned speaker. His message reminds us all of the humanness of our work and teaches us to find inspiration in each day.

For more information, and to register, please go here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Guerreros Bike Club Puts on Terrific Toy Run for CASA Kids

The Guerrero's Bike Club Toy Run for CASA was a huge success!

The clubs that participated were Geurrero's, Marines MC, Black Widows MC, Old Dogs, Shop Krew, Wing Riders, Vietnam Veterans, Eagle Riders, Patriot Guard, and all independent riders. Special thanks to Angie from the Mall, Roswell Ford, Andy Lucero and Famil...y (Lucero Concrete), James Haning and everybody that helped make this event possible. Check out these sweet ole' tough guys:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.