BROOKVILLE — The Western PA Cares for Kids Child Advocacy Center is undergoing a change of leadership, with Cass Burkett becoming the new director following the retirement of Pat Berger from her longtime position.
Burkett, the former assistant director, first joined the CAC in 2021, and has been mentored by Berger for the last two and a half years.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better, or more compassionate boss, because I now do all the forensic interviews and all the directing, and Pat was phenomenal as I was trying to learn how to interview, because it’s a skill,” Burkett said.
Burkett said it’s an honor that Berger trusts her to continue on her work with the CAC. The greatest lesson she said she’s learned from Berger is that “on the days that you throw up your hands and want to say ‘what the heck’ you just keep going and you keep doing it and it will be OK.”
Berger agreed that Cares is in good hands, saying she’s “extremely confident” in Burkett’s abilities. She also said the time they were together, she has seen Burkett take initiative to improve aspects of the center, such as technology.
Burkett said part of this came from the fact that Berger trusted her and gave her creative freedom to do what she felt needed to be done. She said Berger was also there to help and talk through things when needed.
Jeff Burkett said he approached the board about creating the assistant director and assistant forensic interviewing positions specifically for when a time came that Berger decided to retire from her position.
“We created the position with the thought that when Pat is ready to retire, there will be somebody ready, and so it worked out as planned,” Jeff Burkett said.
Cass Burkett graduated from Grove City College in 2020, and moved to Independence, Missouri. There she worked at a home for troubled youth for about six months.
She returned home in December 2020, and later applied for the family advocate position at Cares. She started in that capacity, before later moving into the assistant director position.
While her degrees aren’t in this field, she said she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love the work that child advocacy centers do. I’m so passionate about helping kids and going through the legal system with it, and the importance of it. I feel like I ended up right where I needed to be,” Burkett said.
She believes she is one of the youngest directors of a CAC in Pennsylvania at 25 years old. She said she is excited for what comes next, and is honored to serve the community in this way.
“I love our community here, I want to stay here, I’m passionate about serving the kids here,” Burkett said. “I’m just honored overall.”
Though Berger filed the initial paperwork to get the CAC accredited, Burkett will have to update and refile the paperwork every five years to keep this status. This will entail updating the CAC’s standards to meet any new requirements.
Berger has agreed to remain as a consultant on grant writing.
“I am very grateful that I got to work with you for 23 years,” Berger said to Jeff Burkett. “I’m just glad we have somebody that has a heart for children like you do.”