Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion

Our Mission

CASA recognizes that marginalized identities can exacerbate the challenges faced by youth in foster care. Children and families of color and LGBTQ+ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system, and youth with disabilities and disadvantages require specialized advocacy to access all the resources available to them. We are dedicated to addressing these issues with sensitivity and urgency. Understanding the diverse needs and challenges of children from different backgrounds allows for more effective, holistic and personalized support. This can include recognizing the impact of systemic issues such as racism and poverty on the well-being of children and families. Through education, policy development, and community engagement, we strive to eliminate barriers and biases while promoting a supportive and fair journey towards healing and empowerment for all the youth we serve.

21-Day Equity Challenge

CASA Jeffco/Gilpin is doing a 21-Day Equity Challenge, and we would like YOU to join along! The challenge runs from July 1st – July 21st.  
The 21-Day Challenge is based on America & MOORE’s model, which states that it takes 21 days to build a habit. The goal is to engage with the equity challenge every day for 21 days. Each day, you interact with one of the below prompts (an individual bullet point). You can read an article, connect with a new resource in your community, take an action step, and much more! 
CASA Volunteers can get Continuing Education hours by participating in the challenge. To receive credit for the hours, you will need to use the tracking chart to track which prompts you complete and write a small reflection of each. You can participate even if you are unable to fulfill all 21 days. For every 5 challenges you complete, you will get your name in a raffle for a gift card to a minority-owned business in Jefferson or Gilpin Counties! 
There will be drawings on July 8th, July 15th and July 25th. You can send in your tracking sheet throughout the challenge to be eligible for each of the drawings. At the end of the challenge, please send your tracking chart to Audrey (audrey@casajeffcogilpin.com) to receive your continuing ed hours. 
You can download a copy of the CASA 21-Day Equity Challenge Tracking Chart here. (File > Download or Make a Copy)

Additionally, we will have a small gathering from 4-6pm on July 25th for anyone participating in the challenge! Please RSVP below. 

Notice how people of different identities interact with the world. 

  • Notice Questions: Short answer questions to help you notice what’s going on around you.
  • TV/Movies: What is the racial mix of the main characters in your favorite TV shows? Movies? What about LGBTQ+ characters? What about characters with disabilities?
  • Notice language: Specifically, notice when “white” is not mentioned because it’s the default, while people of color’s race are mentioned to distinguish them from the default. Are you willing to speak up, correct yourself out loud, and help others notice this pattern?
  • Books: What are the last five books you read? What is the racial mix of the authors? When have you read a book by an LGBTQ+ author or a disabled author?
  • Indigenous Names: As you move about around your town/region, look for signs of Indigenous people.
    Look for: State’s name, Street names , Parks, lakes, mountain names, Car names, School and other building names
    Get curious: Are the names connected to the original people of the area? Are the names stereotypical and disconnected? Can you find out the meaning of the name(s)? What language is the name from?
    Notice: Once you discover (hello google!) what the meanings are, notice if you think or feel differently

Connect with experts and groups/individuals with lived experience. Follow them on social media channels, sign up for a newsletter or explore their site! Here are some examples:  

Engage with your community by looking for ways to participate, talk to friends/family or being more aware of equity challenges around you. 

Action steps to get involved with equity work. 

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Along with volunteers, our staff and board members are also participating in the challenge! Follow along on social media or below to see our reflections. You can check back each day to see new reactions!

Day 1
NOTICE: What percentage of the day are you able to be with people of your own racial identity? What about gender/sexuality identity?
“Personally, I have a lot more exposure to people with a different identity than my own outside the workplace – although lots of different people do come through the courthouse every day and we get to meet different people at interviews. I enjoyed thinking about all the little communities I am a part of including where I work, shop, live, etc. And an easy way to think about what areas I could increase this.” – Sarah Whetzle, Volunteer Support Coordinator
Day 2
“While I was familiar with some of the information in this article, there were a lot of interesting examples that framed my learning in a new way. I think there are some great lessons for any child welfare volunteer/professional for how they better support children of color during their interactions with the court system.” – Audrey Miklitsch, Community Engagement Coordinator 
Day 3
“This article interested me because I have a disabled 20 year old nephew and the CASA teen I am an advocate for, is also cognitively disabled. I had no idea that 15% of the population is disabled in some way. I thought perhaps we should do more Staff Development training class on disability awareness. I also thought that we need to make sure our CASA website is “Bobby Approved” for people with disabilities.” – Diane Nichols, Office Manager
Day 4
“This was a thought-provoking report. I very much value the importance of culture in raising children, but it is difficult not to be torn by the emotional implications that arise in situations like this.” – Leah Varnell, Executive Director 
Day 5
“Since it is summertime, I opted to read through out loud with my teen. We discussed what is/isn’t being talked about in her classes. We also took the time to research the terms regarding Latin O A X E. I honestly didn’t know there was such a breakdown, but it was absolutely understandable. We talked about her BFF and the language barrier in some of their classes since English is her second language and how they work together. Empathy and compassion is always such a great conversation to have with her. I have really tried to talk about and engage in that in their presence and with them in hopes that I pass that understanding along to them and just hearing about her BFF I know she is doing well. I am going to continue to engage her in as many of these opportunities as I can since it was such a great learning experience for both of us. ” – Christine Evans, Lead Advocate Supervisor 
Day 6
“This video reminded me that it’s important to always reflect on personal conceptions (especially misconceptions), attitudes, and actions toward people with disabilities. The speaker and disability rights activist stressed the importance of working with and advocating with the disability community – to always include them at the table and in the conversation.” – Melissa Hellmuth, Director of Operations
Day 7
“This site has some really great educational information. I went to the resource link and read through the racial literacy key terms. Some I knew well, some I did not, very helpful. I went on the Jeffco library site and am going to get a few of the books to read! I bookmarked it as well as a continued resource. ” – Christine & AJ Evans, Staff & Volunteer
Day 8
“So for this one, I decided to have my older teen take the quiz as well. I know when I was her age, I was not as patient. I learned to be A LOT more patient when becoming a Mom. She is my more laid back less anxiety child but honestly I still thought my number would be higher than hers. Well it wasn’t. I still do well listening, I can just get distracted. She feels her honors classes at college have taught you to engage more in meaningful conversations.” – Christine & Hadley Evans, Staff & Volunteer
Day 9
“This actually felt like this could be a great resource for broadening one’s understanding of the intersection of race, neighborhoods, and climate change. Systemic racism and all the ways it plays out, isn’t something all volunteers are familiar with or encouraged to think about. Provided relevant history on segregation and environmental risk that was specific to Colorado. Information presented in a digestible way. ” – Sarah Whetzle, Volunteer Support Coordinator 
Day 10
ACT: Support a Minority Owned Business
I seek out minority owned businesses in my town and shop in them weekly.   Most of these businesses are small and I think being a consistent customer lets them know they are a valued part of the community.” – Debbie Gabriel, Program Manager
Day 11
“I found this video very helpful as I begin to navigate questions about others with my curious toddler! She talks about how most people think the best thing to do is ignore someone’s disability when in reality most of those with disabilities are living proudly and authentically themselves and want you to acknowledge that. I will be using her tip of asking, “Are you comfortable talking about your disability?” going forward as I’ve often wondered how to start these conversations with others.” -Mallory Hastings, Program Support
Day 12

READ: The Weaponization of Whiteness in Schools

“I was reading the part where the author talked about Black and Latinx students being “adultified” more so than their white peers. That made me think about my CASA youth and how she, and so many others, have to deal with adult issues way before they are ready. Since so many of the youth we serve are racial minorities, it made me sad to think how fast they are all forced to grow up based on their race and familial status. I wish these kids could be kids.” -Laura Powers, Director of Philanthropy
Day 13

LISTEN: Down to the Struts: Disability in Court (26 min)

“This was a general introduction to issue, beginning to uncover. Potential promise of technology to increase participation in legal system especially for people with barriers to accessing courts.” Shedding light on gap in ideals vs. reality in administration of justice in system – lots of opportunity for systematic improvement! Interesting point: procedural/administrative deficiencies in court system stemming from focus on their own process of getting information vs. how people are trying to use it. Found this interesting and important, focused on what can be done on a policy level for advocating for increased accessibility to courts for people with disabilities. Does point out benefit to virtual hearings that came with pandemic. ” -Sarah Whetzle, Volunteer Support Coordinator 
Day 14

NOTICE: TV/Movies: What is the racial mix of the main characters in your favorite TV shows? Movies? What about LGBTQ+ characters? What about characters with disabilities?

Schitt’s Creek is on the top of my list because it’s a feel-good, fun-loving show. On the Schitt’s Creek Instagram post they wrote the following that captures the show perfectly: Schitt’s Creek made a point to make viewers feel safe by showcasing women without harassment, queer love without trauma, sexual fluidity without shame, economic disparity without mockery, and creativity without limitations.” -Melissa Hellmuth, Director of Operations
Day 15

ENGAGE: Take an implicit bias tests about, race, gender, disability, etc.

“I took the implicit bias test about race and it was really interesting to see the results. I knew I probably had some implicit biases but it was helpful to see some more direct correlations, even if it was uncomfortable to acknowledge. I’d like to take some other ones relate to gender/disability to see how my own identities affect my biases. This was very eye-opening for me!” -Audrey Miklitsch, Community Engagement Coordinator 
Day 16

WATCH: Allyship & Accessibility: Understanding the Intersectionality of Autism and LGBTQ+ Identity (90 min)

“I found this one most helpful. This is a generally interesting intersection to look at, but especially if you have a child that identifies in this way. A lot of these concepts can apply to other kinds of neurodiversity. It was helpful for understanding the perspective of the child more and how to be more accommodating as well as understanding what spectrum means. It broke down autism in a digestible way. ” -Sarah Whetzle, Volunteer Support Coordinator 
Day 17

READ: Research finds teachers perceive more conflict with Black boys and the least with white girls (~4 min)

“This article reflects what is taught in education programs at the college level. As someone with an education background, one that involves administration, it is interesting to see these statistics. In the classes we take, we are taught that if the data shows a discrepancy like this, then we, as school staff, need to learn how to better our understanding of cultures and see where we can improve.” -Moriah Nixon, Advocate Supervisor 
Day 18


“I took some time to explore the PFlag website! I took some extra time on their advocacy tools and looked at their glossary. Even though I am part of the queer community, there are so many terms that I’m not familiar with. It’s nice to learn more about my community and learn terminology that many of the youth we serve are using. I think I’ll be able to better relate to them! ” -Audrey Miklitsch, Community Engagement Coordinator  
Day 19

LISTEN: Spoken Word Poetry: Langston Hughes “Kids who Die” (read by Danny Glover) (3 min)

“The poem, written in 1938 in the context of horror around lynchings in the Jim Crow era was read over a moving video that called to mind several modern-day race-based tragedies and the subsequent uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement. Dew drop covered Skittles and Arizona tea lying in the grass brought the memory of young and innocent Trayvon Martin gunned down by an over-zealous neighborhood watchman. Watching and listening, I noticed myself feeling overwhelmingly sad. Recalling that Langston Hughes lived and died long before I was born, it was sadly surprising how still freshly relevant his words were. And yet the hope of the poem was still not realized, that one day for the kids who die a living monument of love and joy and laughter would be raised. Hands are still raised, but unjust and unfair treatment is still carried out. When the video was done, I walked away from my computer, wanting to shake the feeling, and it occurred to me how privileged I am to be able to shake a feeling off. Poignant to say the least.” -Emily Thomas, Grants Manager
Day 20

ACT: Prepare yourself to interrupt offensive jokes. Click HERE for some advice about how.

“I have long resonated with the idea that silently standing by when there is offensive speech or jokes might inadvertently communicate my acceptance of such conduct, however, knowing how to navigate these situations has proven challenging. This guideline was pretty uncomplicated and basically came down to holding good boundaries with a dash of goodwill.  Be direct in a private conversation so that the person will have less of a need to “save face” or become defensive. Still, I was hoping for an example or two. I clicked around through a few ADL pages linked to the original article and came upon an article written by a teacher for teachers. The closing line gave me the verbiage I was craving: “Our job is to pierce the bubble some of our students are in — that just because it’s “common” doesn’t make it right and banking on other people’s silence doesn’t give you a pass to say things that serve to denigrate others.”” -Emily Thomas, Grants Manager
Day 21

WATCH: 6 Misconceptions About Native American People (3 min)

“Native American girls discuss misconceptions regarding Native American People. This video discussed things that I had heard before. The girls explained the facts and did so with humor even though I am sure these misconceptions are hurtful. I really enjoyed watching this and have shared it with many people. I learned quite a lot!” -Debbie Gabriel, Program Manager

HRC All Children All Families Program

CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties is thrilled to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for meeting the standards of their Building Level of Inclusion as part of their All Children-All Families Program (ACAF). This is an important achievement as we continue our commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI). The ACAF Program was created in collaboration with National GAL/CASA to create a framework for child welfare agencies to implement initiatives for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Click here to learn more about the All Children-All Families program.

Summer 2024: We are currently in the process of implementing the next steps to start moving towards the Solid Level of Inclusion. Stay tuned for more details! 

Non-Discrimination Statement

CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties is committed to inclusivity and diversity in its governance, management, and advocacy for children. In regard to persons served by the organization, persons employed by the organization, persons volunteering their services to the organization, the selection of vendors and the provisioning of services to the organization, CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin Counties does not discriminate by reason of age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, marital status, military status, socioeconomic status or citizenship status. Any situation suggesting a possible violation of this policy should be reported promptly to the Executive Director.