Embracing Organizational Change (For Kids)

I’ve spent the last month talking to people about a new model of volunteer supervision. The feedback has been mostly positive and I think it’s safe to say that we will move forward with it. Yet that’s by no means the last word on it. If you have any thoughts, please share them. We sincerely want all of our supporters to be a part of the process. I hope everyone knows this, but we have a great deal of trust in your understanding and observations of the program. We’d like to hear from you.

The new model, known as Peer Coordinator , emerged as a matter of necessity for CASA programs across the United States. The National CASA Association, ever vigilant and mindful of best practices, realized the potential and strongly encouraged its development by sharing and acquiring resources, and by hosting a number of calls and trainings. In Colorado, there are currently six programs in varying degrees of implementation, and many more are considering it. I’ve had the chance to speak with many people (both staff and volunteers) who are already doing it (both in and out of state) and most agree that it really helps in strengthening the mission of CASA.

The Peer Coordinator model, then, accomplishes these three things:

  1. It improves outcomes for kids.
  2. Provides more support for volunteers.
  3. Allows us to serve even more kids with our resources.

It works by developing a new tier of leadership drawn from experienced CASA Volunteers. These experienced CASA Volunteers then act as mentors or “Peer Coordinators” for a small cohort of new CASA Volunteers, probably about five. They help by answering questions, assisting with court reports and even attending court. The peer coordinator visits with the other CASA Volunteers on their team and tries to pull everyone together for a monthly team meeting. This increases the amount of understanding a CASA Volunteer has on a case—even more than we currently do. By having a close-knit team of people to support the CASA volunteer, who, of course, supports the children on their case, it’s possible to imagine even more vigilance and attention happening.

While peer coordinators help providing support to new volunteers, the role of staff changes. Continuing along this line of increasing the depth and understanding we have on our cases, the staff pick a “content area” and start to become “experts” on a particular subject. Right now, staff are closely looking to become experts in Education, Trauma Informed Care, Mental Health and Emancipating Youth. Staff become more fluid as they move between these peer coordinator teams, providing expertise and help.

Lastly, the current program ratios stand at one paid staff to thirty volunteers (1:30). The peer coordinator model would allow a larger ratio of about one to fifty volunteers (1:50) with approximately 10 peer coordinators in the mix. In other words, one paid staff supports 10 peer coordinators who then support five volunteers each.

While this has enormous potential, we want to stress one thing: We do not expect you to become a peer coordinator unless you really want to. It is very clear to me that some people really like doing exactly what they do now. In this way, keep doing what you do best! Yet if you are interested, or perhaps you are simply interested in helping to plan for the transition, please let me know. We feel strongly about the Peer Coordinator Model because it will help us reach our dream: A CASA for Every Kid in Need.

Please don’t hesitate with any questions or comments!