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Court advocate program receives $130K in grants, adds new staffers

Connecticut's Court Appointed Special Advocates Program, which connects children to volunteers who advocate for them in court - has received more than $130,000 in grants.

CASA, which unified into a statewide organization this year, pairs children who have experienced abuse or neglect with a volunteer who follows them through the course of their case and advocates for their best interest. They recently received two federally funded grants from the National CASA Association — totaling nearly $120,000 — and a $10,250 private grant from the SeaChange-Lodestar Fund for Nonprofit Collaboration.

These funds enabled the organization to hire two new staff members and will help them continue to recruit, train and support volunteers, according to a statement from Josiah H. Brown, executive director of CASA of Southern Connecticut.

CASA hired Catherine Ramirez Mejia as its operations manager and program coordinator. Ramirez Mejia previously worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the North Hartford Promise Zone after studying at University of Connecticut and public policy at Brandeis University.

Vallerie Dontes was also hired as a new program coordinator. She previously worked as an advocate supervisor at CASA in Dallas. She also worked as the associate director of outpatient services in psychiatry at the University of Illinois in Chicago after earning her master's of science in psychiatric rehabilitation from Boston University.

"These new staff colleagues join our dedicated volunteers, increasing their numbers while adhering to National CASA standards on behalf of children's best interests," said Brown.

The organization is seeking volunteers to join its team. For more information, visit



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