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Success Stories

Being That “Someone”

Karen Rickert has been a CASA Volunteer since 2017, and her involvement, dedication and passion have grown consistently since. She has served 14 children in six cases.

Karen Rickert (middle) is named a Darlene Kamine Advocate of the Year. Karen accepts the award alongside her two CASA Managers.

In one of them, Karen serves a sibling set – two young children and their teenage sister. While the youngest two have returned to their mother’s care in recent months, the 17-year-old, “Gabby,” is on her own path.

Gabby came to us as a chronic runaway, and according to her CASA Volunteer, it was a problem that stuck. Due to her disruptive behaviors, Gabby saw group homes and residential treatment centers across Ohio and as far north as Cleveland.

With multiple social workers and so many placements in the mix, Karen said her advocacy has often amounted to keeping Gabby’s name on the top of someone’s pile of paperwork. And along the way, she became a person this teen girl could count on.

When Gabby was limited on who she could call, when her mom wasn’t answering, or her dad was in jail, she memorized Karen’s phone number. Placed in a residential treatment facility, she called her most evenings – to debrief on her days but also to de-escalate. She’d call to talk when a peer was picking on her or when she felt upset. Because after so much movement, Gabby didn’t want her anger to “mess things up” with her placement. So, whenever she needed someone to talk to, complain to or cry to… she’d call her CASA Volunteer.

What it really comes down to is this: that Karen could be that “someone” for Gabby – someone she knows is always there.

Today, thanks to Karen’s advocacy, Gabby is back in Cincinnati in a semi-independent living setting.

While she was doing well at a residential treatment facility, Karen said it wasn’t preparing her for adulthood. And with limited access to computers, Gabby couldn’t pursue the credit recovery necessary to get her back on track at school.

Back in Cincinnati, Gabby has a great team around her: mentors, educators, and of course, her CASA. While she still struggles, like many teens, with making responsible decisions consistently (she recently called Karen for a ride when she was out past curfew), Gabby now has a robust support system. She’s even been able to see her brother and sister again, which has been a big motivator, as being a good role model for them is really important to her.

The immediate goal, and what Karen stresses, is finishing high school. The two have toured a cosmetology school, and they discuss the importance of Gabby’s education in getting her there.

Beyond that, Karen’s hope is that Gabby will stay in the system until she’s 21.

Karen embraces Carmen Lightfoot-Langenkamp, one of her two ProKids CASA Managers.

“A lot of stuff’s been stacked against this young woman,” Karen said. “And if she can benefit from some of the services available to her, to cushion her when a lot of things in her life haven’t been cushioned for her, I think (she) would really benefit.”

The two have been sharing a meal to mark Gabby’s birthday for three years in a row now. They’ve done 15, 16 and 17. At the end of October, they’ll celebrate her 18th birthday. And while they may lose touch down the road, she can also see a future where they’re out for Chinese food (Gabby’s favorite) when Karen is 75 and Gabby is 50.

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