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McKenzie Robinson | SBJ

2021 Economic Impact Awards Community Involvement Champion of the Year: Laura Farmer

Career in Community

Posted online

Laura Farmer grew up surrounded by poverty and the challenges it brings.

“I saw firsthand the difference you could make by reaching out to others and helping others and helping them through difficult times,” Farmer says.

But she says it wasn’t until she attended Missouri State University that she realized her desire to help others actually had a name: social work. “I thought, ‘Oh! That’s what that’s called,’” she says with a laugh.

After earning her master’s degree in social work at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Farmer followed a career path to a cause very dear to her heart.

“My dad was adopted from foster care. I knew that was a field that I could make a difference in and I was passionate about,” she says.

Farmer has served as executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri since 2017.

“My motivation comes from an internal drive to ensure children don’t have to suffer abuse and neglect,” she says. “I want to see family cycles of abuse and neglect broken, and I believe CASA of SWMO is the best way to interrupt those cycles.”

She says research shows when a child has an advocate representing them, the likelihood of that child reentering the foster care system drops from the statewide average of 16% to 1%.

Farmer spends the majority of her time spreading awareness about CASA and encouraging people to volunteer either time or money to the cause.

Some of the initiatives she has worked on are Community Partnership of the Ozarks’ Child Abuse and Neglect Collaborative and its Community Focus Report, as well as Fostering Court Improvement and Judicial Engagement Team. She also has served on national-level initiatives and committees through the National CASA Association Leadership Council.

On her personal time, Farmer is a member of the Junior League of Springfield, volunteers at Isabel’s House, serves on the board of Generations Village and at her children’s PTAs, among others. Farmer also encourages CASA staff members to get involved with community groups they care about that are outside of the child-welfare system.

“Child welfare is a high burnout field because of the stressful and emotional work that we do,” she says.

CASA team members serve in such groups as Springfield Black Tie, GLSEN and Junior League. Last year, they volunteered more than 400 hours.

“Community involvement is a priority to me because I believe everyone can do something,” Farmer says. “Whatever issue they are interested in, there is likely an organization working in that area that you can get involved with.

“While my job is within the nonprofit sector and specifically child welfare, giving back to the community is who I am and what I do."

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