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2023 Illinois CASA Annual State Conference

Click here to register for the 2023 Illinois CASA Conference. ​​​​For registration assistance or more information please contact

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Workshop Presenters

  • Ashley Deckert
    Ashley Deckert

    Ashley Deckert is the Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs for the Illinois Collaboration on Youth. ICOY represents more than 100 community-based providers serving young people and their families with a mission to promote the safety, health, and success of Illinois’ children and act as a collective voice for policy and practice, and by connecting and strengthening the organizations that serve them. Prior to joining ICOY, Ashley was the Deputy Director of Child Services for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. As Deputy Director, she had the oversight and responsibility for four state-wide divisions: Residential Monitoring, Residential Recruitment, Foster Parent Recruitment, and Juvenile Delinquency and Restorative Justice. Ashley was with the Department for 13 years having served in various roles from direct service in the Intact Family Services Division, Supervisor in the Division of Child Protection, to various leadership roles within the Division of Licensing.

    Ashley received both her undergraduate degree in Sociology and graduate degree in Social Work from The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In 2018, Ashley went back to graduate school to obtain a Master of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Chicago due to her desire to impact change at the legislative level.

    Lastly, Ashley is a Chicago native, but has been a resident of Champaign, IL for over 20 years. She has a 14-year-old daughter and they both love to travel, eat at different restaurants, and are especially fond of boating season!

  • Brad McMillan
    Brad McMillan

    Brad McMillan is the Coordinator for the Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership program and has been teaching graduate and undergraduate leadership classes at Bradley University for the past 15 years. Brad has provided leadership for statewide and regional nonprofit organizations for over 25 years. Currently, he Co-Chairs CHANGE Illinois and serves on the Illinois Nature Conservancy Board. He has his Juris Doctorate from Southern Illinois School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University. Brad believes that “the Heart of Leadership is in the Heart of the Leader.”

  • Dr. Doris Houston
    Dr. Doris Houston

    Dr. Doris Houston is the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Illinois State University (ISU) where she leads campus-wide efforts to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). This role extends to university and community stakeholders and includes partnerships and engagements with students, faculty, alumni, civic leaders, and business leaders invested in educational access in higher education.

    Prior to joining the Office of the President in 2020, Doris served for two years as Interim Director of the School of Social Work at Illinois State, and thirteen years as a Social Work faculty member. She is the founding faculty researcher for the School of Social Work’s “Illinois Permanency Enhancement” racial equity initiative, which began in 2007 as a partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She is the co-founder of First Star Academy at Illinois State, a college-readiness program for high school students receiving foster care services.

    Prior to joining ISU in 2005, Doris served as an Outcome Evaluation Specialist at the Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) at the University of Illinois. She began her professional career as a Child Welfare Specialist and Adoption Specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, where she later held the position of Field Office Supervisor at the Urbana, Illinois field office. She received her masters and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in Human Development and Family Studies.

    In 2020, Dr. Doris Houston was honored with the McLean County YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and in 2018, she was named recipient of the ISU David A. Strand Diversity Achievement Award.

    While originally from Chicago, Doris has called Central Illinois her home for 25+ years. She serves on the Board of the McLean County Center for Human Services, the UIUC Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) External Advisory Committee, and the UIUC Student Affairs Advisory Council (SAAC). Doris is also a member of the McLean County NAACP, and the founder of the Illinois State University Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Leaders Circle.

  • Honorable Judge Ericka Sanders
    Honorable Judge Ericka Sanders

    Judge Ericka Sanders is an Associate Judge from Marion County, Illinois, appointed in 2010. Sanders presides over juvenile abuse, neglect, dependency, and delinquency cases, as well as problem solving courts, in multiple counties in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. She serves as the chair of the Fourth Circuit’s Juvenile Justice Council and is a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee for Juvenile Court. Judge Sanders was recipient of 2022 Illinois CASA Judge of the Year Award.

  • Natalie Beck
    Natalie Beck

    As president and CEO of The Community Foundation of Macon County, Natalie provides the vision and leadership for shaping the Foundation’s role as a civic leader, philanthropic partner, and charitable giving vehicle. She brings together a rich background in philanthropy, nonprofit administration, and public policy advocacy. Since taking the helm at CFMC, Natalie has championed efforts to increase local giving from CFMC donors and she believes in philanthropy’s unique ability to deliver “innovation capital” while leveraging partnerships. Under her leadership, the CFMC, which is among the eight largest Illinois community foundations for total giving and assets, has adopted a strategic focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.

  • Beatriz Valdez
    Beatriz Valdez

    Beatriz first joined the CASA family in 2015 at the local program level. Beatriz has been with the Illinois CASA office since August 2019. She has served as the Director of Accountability and most recently in her current role as Deputy Director since 2020. At the state level, Beatriz has been instrumental in elevating the state office into a robust and actively engaged organization supporting the various needs of the Illinois CASA Network. During her tenure at Illinois CASA, Beatriz led the transition of the local programs to Optima providing various trainings on the topic throughout the years. Beatriz currently chairs the Equity Task Force and the Data Task Force within Illinois CASA. While at the local program level, Beatriz served in several different capacities including Advocate Supervisor, Internship Coordinator, Director of Programs, Interim Executive Director, and Director of Operations. Beatriz understands the multitude of skills necessary to run a program, as well as the challenges faced by programs. Prior to joining the CASA family, Beatriz worked as a foster care case manager, foster care supervisor and clinical screener with Spanish speaking families involved with DCFS in Cook County and throughout Northwest Illinois. Moreover, Beatriz has worked in the area of immigration, one of her other passions besides working with vulnerable children and families. Beatriz holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Social Work from Loyola University Chicago, and a Juris Doctorate from Northern Illinois University College of Law. Beatriz has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Illinois since 2010. Beatriz is also licensed as an attorney in the State of Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas.

  • Sharie Dodge
    Sharie Dodge

    Sharie Dodge is the Advocate Engagement Manager for the CASA of McHenry County program. Her career in social work began with in-home therapy for foster children and working in Lake County Jail as the on-staff social worker. After a hiatus from social work, which she spent working in roles that allowed her to be the primary caregiver for younger children, she returned in 2020 to work with CASA.

    Sharie has been training in various capacities since 1993, when she began training clients on new processes and computer systems. As her career diverged from the tech industry, she began developing high performance teams and implementing organizational change projects for HR units. At CASA, she recruits and trains all new Advocate volunteers in McHenry county, and she supervises a caseload of Advocates assigned to cases.

    At CASA, Sharie participated in the state-wide task force for Educational Advocacy and now participates on the Data Task Force. Along with these initiatives, she uses her past experiences to develop clean and robust processes while fine-tuning the data so that the program can more efficiently and accurately serve the children who rely upon CASAs.

    Sharie received her undergraduate degree in MIS and HR from Miami University, Oxford, OH. She received her Master of Arts in Social Work from the University of Chicago. She is a Licensed Social Worker in Illinois and studying to receive her Certification in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. She lives in Cary, IL, and she spends her free time with books and art.

2023 Illinois CASA Conference Emcee

  • Erika Harold
    Erika Harold

    Erika N. L. Harold is the Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism. A dedicated advocate for civility, empathy, and inclusion, Erika leads the Commission’s extensive educational programming focused on advancing professionalism among the state’s lawyers and judges to build trust and confidence in the justice system.

    Prior to joining the Commission, Erika was a commercial and civil litigation attorney at Meyer Capel, P.C. in Champaign, Illinois, where she represented clients at both the trial and appellate levels and advised clients on matters of statutory and constitutional interpretation.

    Earlier in her career, Erika was a litigation attorney at the Chicago offices of Sidley Austin LLP and Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C., where she represented businesses in commercial disputes and advised religious institutions in matters involving First Amendment protections.

    Erika is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she won a Boykin C. Wright Memorial Award for appellate advocacy in Harvard Law School’s prestigious Ames Moot Court Competition. She funded her legal education through the scholarships and appearance fees she earned as Miss America 2003. Ms. Harold has been active in Illinois politics, most recently running a statewide race for Attorney General.

    Erika has taught students about the U.S. legal system as part of the Lawyers in the Classroom program, coached students in city-wide mock trial competitions, and served on the teaching faculty of Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.

    Erika is licensed to practice law in Illinois and the United States District Courts for the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois. She served on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Equality from 2015 to 2022 and was a Commissioner with the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism from 2017 to 2022. Erika also served on the boards of directors of Prison Fellowship and Champaign County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

    Erika is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Champaign County Bar Associations. She was selected to the 2017 Emerging Lawyers list, earning recognition in the categories of commercial litigation and civil rights/constitutional law.

    Erika is a nationally recognized advocate of bullying prevention efforts and has spoken to more than 100,000 students about combating peer-to-peer harassment. In recognition of her advocacy, she was named one of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids’ “Champions for Children” and received a leadership award from the National Center for Victims of Crime.

    Erika is a frequent speaker and panelist on topics including professionalism, civility, leadership, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and was a featured panelist at Fortune Magazine’s “Most Powerful Women, Next Gen” conference.

    She received her A.B. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and as a Chancellor’s Scholar.

Our impact this year has changed our community!

  • Children Served in FY22


  • Volunteer Hours in FY22


  • Volunteer Advocates in FY22


  • Number of New Volunteers in FY22


Thank you to our generous sponsors:

  • National CASA
    National CASA
  • Illinois DCFS
    Illinois DCFS
  • The Office of Illinois Courts
    The Office of Illinois Courts
  • Illinois Attorney General
    Illinois Attorney General