Kim Coats began volunteering as a CASA in Kansas City, MO in 1993, after hearing about the murder of a child in Kansas City at the hands of her abuser. The Division of Family Services had returned the child back to the home knowing the dangers and risks. She wanted to be a part of an organization that could protect children from events such as that. In Missouri she went on to advocate for 17 children, and was also the President of the statewide CASA organization.
Coats moved to Las Vegas in 2003, and immediately volunteered her time to the CASA Program there. She was assigned to a high profile case that involved a young girl whose sister had been killed as a result of a “drug deal gone wrong.” As part of her advocacy for that child, Coats also acted as a guardian ad litem in a related civil lawsuit, protecting the girl’s financial interests from the avarice of those around her. She continues to advocate for that child, in situations that tax her professional communication skills. She has participated in supervised visitations between the parent, relatives and child. She often has to negotiate in adversarial situations. She is a respected member of the child-and-family team, and tries to remain the neutral voice advocating for the best interest of that child. This case has been time-consuming at times, and has required many court hearings. Coats has had to juggle many balls in the air, and to balance her priorities between work and her commitment to her CASA child. There have been discouraging times for Coats in her CASA work, but she is persevering and continues to honor her commitment to her CASA child. Coats has recently taken on a second case. She has volunteered for the CASA Foundation and is also working on the committee that will give Southern Nevada siblings separated in foster care a “Camp To Belong” during summer 2006.
Sometimes a child can remain adrift in foster care for months, even years. That’s where the CASA comes in. CASAs are Court Appointed Special Advocates—trained community volunteers. They are appointed by a judge to speak up for abused and neglected children. As an independent voice outside of any system, and without any personal agenda, the CASA’s unique position fulfills a need not met elsewhere. Additionally, CASAs improve the quality of life the children experience by ensuring that day-to-day needs are also met, such as the need for relationships with siblings. Children in foster care are assigned to social workers with caseloads too large to do anything but fight fires. Resources for counseling and other basic needs of children in trauma are few and far between. Children in large sibling groups are usually separated due to lack of placements available. Law reviews the permanency plan for foster children reviewed every six months in court. Six months is a long time in a young child’s life. CASAs fill in the many gaps that occur in a foster child’s life, and push the system to meet their needs and find permanency as quickly as is feasible.
Coats is extremely efficient, responsible and tenacious. When she gets a case, she gets to know all the parties involved and develops working relationships with them. She has a clear understanding of her role and becomes a key player in negotiations outside the courtroom. She relates well to children, builds relationships with her CASA children, and becomes a consistent presence in their lives that they can depend upon.
Coats is a creative problem-solver; she is quick to call looking for resources when any problem occurs. She is a successful businesswoman and a good decision-maker. She does not shy away from confronting difficult issues, yet she is professional and a team builder. Her work as a guardian ad litem for her CASA child led her to a conference room full of attorneys with divergent interests, from which she emerged with a joint decision in her child’s favor. In Missouri, and now Nevada, Coats has persevered for 13 years as a CASA in work that has a high potential for burnout: the kids are victims of horrendous actions; the system is a cumbersome, impersonal, frustrating vehicle; and resources and support systems are few and far between. Coats is still serving, exhibiting a positive energy and can-do attitude.
Coats is committed to children and knows they are the key to the future of this community. Her work with each individual child helps to improve the quality of life for all children—and thus for the community. The more positive experiences we provide for troubled children, the more likely they are to become productive citizens. Coats values the children she serves. They sense their importance to her and thereby understand their own value; they are not throwaways.