2019 Friends of Children Gathering Challenges Community to Speak Up for Children

A gallery of photos from the 2019 Friends of Children Breakfast is here.

At its annual event, ProKids asked the Greater Cincinnati community to speak up for abused and neglected children who need advocacy as they grow up — and need the support of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA Volunteers) from ProKids in order to move to safe, stable, nurturing homes.


ProKids Board President Bob McMahon told the more than 550 guests that by working together “we are taking ProKids into the future with more expertise, more community leadership, more energy and, more importantly, more advocacy that can literally change the life of a child.”

Hamilton County Administrative Judge John Williams swore in the newest CASA Volunteers who joined ProKids, adding that their insight at court regarding the best interest of an abused and neglected child can offer judges and magistrates extraordinary insight in deciding cases.

You can see the swearing in here.

ProKids Executive Director Tracy Cook told the gathering “we are facing some brutal truths. Abuse and neglect, mental health, substance abuse and poverty are completely intertwined, leaving kids so traumatized it affects every part of their lives.”

You can see her complete speech here.

But there is reason to hope, she said, because ProKids “CASAs are on the frontline every day visiting our children and families, calling social workers, therapists, and teachers and working with all of them to create plans to get children to their forever family.”

Recruiting and supporting these volunteers takes our entire community’s investment, said board member Chip Turner. And there’s some good reasons to do so, he added. “It’s an incredible bargain. 86% of the workforce is unpaid. We have dedicated community volunteers who have the support of passionate, caring, driven staff members.”

You can see his complete speech here.

Turner said this blend of committed volunteers and professional staff “maximizes the impact by investing in ProKids. This goes beyond the here and now, it is future focused.”

To illustrate the point, ProKids told the story of a family which was impacted by the advocacy of a ProKids CASA Volunteer and the Advocacy Team — which includes a CASA Manager as well as a staff attorney.

The CASA Manager, Anna, explained to the guests at the Breakfast how ProKids recommended to the court that because of the individual needs of the children, the son be placed in foster care, separately from his sisters. His sisters are now in the legal, permanent custody of their grandparents.

Scott, a CASA Volunteer who is also an IT professional, told the group how he continues his work advocating for the young boy who is now 11. He makes sure he gets the therapy, school support and the medical care he needs — as well as time to hang out and toss football together. He will continue to work on behalf of the boy’s best interest until he also has a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

The grandmother of the children told everyone how the girls adjusted to life in their home after years of living in chaos. “While all ProKids children come in as victims, these children emerge as warriors!… Children can only grow into strong, independent adults when they have a team of warriors behind them: ProKids and a family.”

JoAnn Hagopian, a member of the ProKids Board of Trustees, asked the community to give its financial support having been inspired by children like those Scott and Anna advocated for. “Nothing can change unless children have a safe and loving home,” she said. “We can do this.”




You can see the story, recreated in a video thanks to community actors, on this page.