Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dollhouse project gives fundraiser for court advocates an international flair

Kansas University communication studies professor Mary Banwart discusses how women in KU's Heartland leadership institute from Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan are contributing to a fundraiser for Douglas County CASA.

July 7, 2011, 2:06 p.m. Updated July 7, 2011, 4:34 p.m.


The Egyptian house was plastered with photos of the revolution. The Moroccan one featured a wall painted in the traditional tadleakt way, with big swoops in the paint. And the Pakistani one had a place for the family to eat on the floor, as is traditionally done in that country.

The dollhouses on the first floor of Kansas University’s Nunemaker Center were being decorated by 18 women from six countries: Morocco, Sudan, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Egypt.

The women are all undergraduate students in their home countries and are at KU as part of the Heartland U.S. Institute on Women’s Leadership, a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

The dollhouses they were making this week are part of a fundraising effort for the Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates program.

The women in the leadership institute will contribute six dollhouses in all, joining 14 others that will be on display starting Saturday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

Members of the public can vote for their favorite at the arts center and bid on them at a silent auction at the Douglas County CASA’s Playhouse Celebration from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. July 16 at the center.

That event will feature a dinner and live music from the band Thundercat. The winner of a large playhouse that has been on tour at several Lawrence locations will also be announced at the event. The winner will be randomly drawn from ticket entries that have been made during the tour and at the event.

Admission to that event is $40 per person online at or at the door on July 16.

The women in the KU leadership program have been learning some of a traditional women’s studies program and hearing presentations that focus on the process of leadership, said Mary Banwart, a KU communication studies professor.

The hope is that they can return to their home countries more engaged, empowered and able to inspire others around them, she said.

“This is just a life-changing experience,” Banwart said, both for the women and for the KU staff who work with them.

The women got involved with CASA after Andi Witczak, KU’s director of service learning who co-designed the leadership program, saw the opportunity to connect the two organizations.

Many of the students took the dollhouse project to heart.

“This house is like our country,” said Tahmina Kohastani, from Kabul, Afghanistan. “We felt like we were working on our country.”

As the women worked, they often slipped into a mish-mash of languages, everything from Arabic to Urdu, to accompany the English that united them.

“These women are just amazing,” said Diana Seely Frederick, executive director for Douglas County CASA, who gave a presentation to them. “They asked all kinds of questions. In some of the countries, they didn’t even have adoption.”

All proceeds from fundraisers support Douglas County CASA’s services for abused and neglected children.


Alceste 6 years, 7 months ago

CASA is NOT what it appears or states to be. It's more like the Grandma in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.

●Throughout the country, local CASA chapters continue to state or imply that they are “a child’s voice” in court. They are not. A CASA advocates for whatever the CASA thinks is best for the child. So if the child desperately wants to go home, but the CASA thinks that’s a bad idea, the CASA pushes as hard as she can against what the child wants; the child effectively is silenced. (While it is much less likely to happen, if a child wants to stay in foster care and the CASA wants the child to return home, again, the child is silenced – and that is equally wrong.)

Children do need a voice in court – a real one. From the age a child is old enough to express a rational preference she or he should get a lawyer to fight for that preference. That doesn’t mean children always should get what they want. But the best way to find out what truly is best for a child is if everyone has an articulate advocate making his or her case. Deciding what is best is what we pay judges for. It’s time we stopped ceding that role to amateurs.

CASA is one of the larger fronts as it is a GIANT aspect of the problem with respect to the distorted "Court" system, families, children, removals, foster care, etc. CASA ain't no panacea and has been allowed to grow and mutate to the point of obscenity. LOTS of Jim Jones like Kool-Aid being drunk around these here parts. Read the truth about CASA and what a joke of an operation it is here: (if you dare, download AND READ the complete report here: , bearing in mind this report is one that was ordained by CASA itself and then BURIED because CASA didn't like what was found.... )

Here are some basic "bullet points" to wet your whistle: an evaluation commissioned by the National CASA Association itself. As Youth Today noted, the report “delivers some surprisingly damning numbers.”

●The study found that CASA’s only real accomplishments were to prolong the time children languished in foster care and reduce the chance that the child will be placed with relatives.

●The study found no evidence that having a CASA on the case does anything to improve child safety – so all that extra foster care is for nothing. (The study specifically controlled for CASA’s all purpose excuse for this – the claim that CASAs handle the most difficult cases.)

●The study also found that when a CASA is assigned to a child who is Black, the CASA spends, on average, significantly less time on the case. (The study also found that CASAs don’t spend as much time on cases in general as the organization’s p.r. might lead one to believe. CASA volunteers reported spending an average of only 4.3 hours per month on cases involving white children, and only 2.67 hours per month on cases involving Black children). (Continued below):

Alceste 6 years, 7 months ago


Rather than respond to the findings of its own study by cleaning up its act, CASA tried first to spin the results and then to bury them. Youth Today concluded that CASA’s spin “can border on duplicity.”

In short, CASA is one more thumb tilting the scales of justice against families.

Shane Garrett 6 years, 7 months ago

So, Alceste. Want to build a mini-predator drone and fly over some doll houses?

goodcountrypeople 6 years, 7 months ago

Alceste may make an unfortunately spot-on point about CASA, but the dollhouses they are painting in this story sure are colorful.

Lawrence Morgan 6 years, 7 months ago

If the point that Alceste is making about CASA is true, then that needs a closer look. I, too, am not familiar with CASA.

But the dollhouses contain features of each country, and what they have been making is quite unusual for Lawrence. We need an interview with each person who is making the dollhouse as well as close-ups so we can learn more about each house.

For example, I wonder if the Sudanese woman is from the north or the south. As you know, tonight (our time) marks the birth of a new nation, South Sudan, to which I say Congratulations! I do know a number of Sudanese people, especially in Olathe and Kansas City.

There is no better way to learn about each country than an interview with a person or persons from that country. To add something that they have personally created, a dollhouse, is really something and can tell us much more about the country. Thanks!

honestone 6 years, 7 months ago

CASA's are a good thing but there is a whole system out there that is involved in a CINC case and that can be an issue. A dedicated CASA can only "suggest" options but the contractor and the courts must approve and impliment that suggestion.
In addition the "voice of the child" must be an adult, objective voice. My own children didn't "want " to do a lot of things. They didn't want to do home work. Didn't want to go to school. A CINC child could "want" to go home but the CASA has to balance that want and the "best interest' of the child. When you speak in court you identify that childs wishes but ALSO use your knowledge of the situation to make recommendations

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