The Real Housewives of Benton County Present: Leonne Bannister-Mi Casa Es Su Casa


When you meet Leonne, you instantly like her. She is genuine, fun, and she just radiates kindness. I feel like I can be my complete self around Leonne.  She accepts people for who they are, and she is a thoughtful and patient mom. I feel very blessed and grateful to call Leonne a friend. In the last year, Leonne has started to use her elementary counselor/people skills to do some good in the area by becoming a CASA volunteer.  Read on to find out more about CASA and how her time volunteering has created a whole new adventure in parenting.

Kara:Tell us a little bit about how your family landed in Benton County
Leonne:  Morgan and I were both raised in Southern California and we were living and working there when Olivia was born. Shortly after her birth, Morgan and I began looking for a new place to raise our family. We looked at many places ranging from big cities (Austin, TX) to small college towns (San Luis Obispo, CA). To be honest, Corvallis wasn’t even really on the list, but on a visit up to Portland we stopped here and it struck us as “the place.” I mean it really was that simple. We walked downtown on a drizzly November morning and we had this realization that we might just have stumbled upon the place we would raise our family. We visited 3 more times to make sure we weren’t making up the wonderful impression that Corvallis had left on us and then, we made the move. January 1, 2010 was the day we moved up and it was the best way to start a new year. 

Kara:What is CASA, and why did you decide to get involved?
Leonne: CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Essentially a CASA is a voice for a child in court. They advocate for what is in the best interest of the child in consideration of all aspects of the case. Some of the issues that come up are parental visitations, counseling, mental health assessments, foster parent relationships and parent reunification. A CASA will work with attorneys, DHS, service providers and biological parents to make sure all parties in the case are providing appropriate service to the child and that their needs are being met. Most importantly, a CASA works with the child. A CASA gets to know the child by visiting and spending time with the child in order to ensure that the child has a trusted adult in their life that they can turn to.

I got involved with CASA because I wanted to revisit the “helping” role I had in my professional life before kids. I’ve always gravitated toward the helping field and having kids took me out of the professional environment. CASA allows me to help another family on a very personal level and I get to do it on my own schedule.

Kara: What can readers do to support CASA?
Leonne: CASA is a non-profit organization. All of their funding is generated from grants and private donations. They have several fundraisers throughout the year which bring in necessary funds to keep the program running. I would encourage people to come to a CASA fundraiser. I’ve attended one (the CASA Catwalk) and it was a lot of fun!

If someone is interested in becoming involved with CASA, they can become an advocate. You can find more information about CASA here. There is a high need for CASA in Benton County with many CASA carrying large loads. You can contact me if you want more of my personal experiences or you can directly contact the office if you want more information.

Kara:You have now been fostering a wonderful young lady at your house for the last month? How has the experience been so far going from preschool to high school over night?
Leonne: Yes, we have been fostering Tiffany for almost 2 months. I met Tiffany as her CASA. It didn’t take long for me to realize what an exceptional person she is. We hit it off well and I was enjoying the time I spent with her. A few weeks into the case, it was looking as though she would be put in a foster home. Given her situation I felt as though that would not be the ideal scenario for her. Morgan and I agreed that she would be a wonderful addition to the family.

Going from parenting a preschooler to a college-bound high-schooler over night was interesting. She is an incredibly determined girl and I wanted to honor her desire to go to college so we’ve spent a lot of time re-familiarizing ourselves with the college application and financial aid process. I’ve met with her school counselor and teachers to make sure she’s on track and everything is working out well. It’s been a lot of fun and she’s such a gem of a person that I don’t see anything but success in her future.

Kara:What advice do you have for families considering taking in foster children?
Leonne: I think each child will present differently. However, I think many attentive foster parents struggle with trying to make the child feel welcome in the family. There is a history that led this child into a foster home and a foster parent has to be aware of the challenges that can create. Understanding that what a foster parent provides (a safe home, concern, caring) won’t make up for the fact that the child is still without their family. It will take time for a child to genuinely trust that their foster parents are there for them and care about them. I try everyday to show my foster child that I genuinely care and that I am here for her for good and bad.

Kara:What would your perfect fall day look like?
Leonne: Working out by myself first thing in the morning and then going for a nice walk with my family. Being out in the fresh air and dappled sunlight is a gift that I treasure because I know the heavy winter clouds are upon us. Oh, and I’d add in baking up anything pumpkin related. I’ve told you about my relationship with pumpkin, right?

Kara:What brings you peace and happiness?
Leonne: My family. My husband is such a supportive and loving partner. Knowing that I have Morgan next to me makes everyday a good one. Olivia, Roy and Tiffany bring such a wonderful energy to my life. Each of them, in their own way, bring me such overwhelming happiness.

camie - November 9, 2011 - 7:17 am

I got to chat a bit with Leonne at the pool this summer after we’d just moved here. It was partly because of her that I thought people in Corvallis are very friendly. So neat that she has a foster child in her home. Two foster children in my home growing up became siblings!!

Jacqueline - November 9, 2011 - 11:08 am

What a nice interview! I love Leonne dearly and I’m overjoyed that she has made some very good friends in Corvallis. Hopefully our family will be making the move from CA soon. xoxo

Maggi - November 9, 2011 - 5:24 pm

Your gain is my loss. When the family moved from next door
I missed them so and I still miss them, but am so happy she
has found great happiness and has such a fulfilling life.

adrienne w - November 10, 2011 - 3:37 pm

What a great job! I’d love to do something like that, if we had it here. Again, you know some amazing women!!