The CASA Story
We see news stories every day about children who are taken from their homes because of abuse, neglect or the tragic loss of a parent to illness or incarceration. We assume there is a system that will take care of these children and make sure they are given a safe place to live, heal, and be a child again.
But there is a story behind the story that few people speak about. It is the story of the overburdened foster care system that – though full of deeply committed people – cannot begin to meet the needs of the children they serve.
It’s the story of a 6 year old who has been moved to 6 homes and 3 schools over the past 2 years. The story of a toddler separated from her siblings during the most vulnerable time of her life. The story of a child being handed all his belongings in a plastic bag at the age of 18 because he has “aged out” of the system.
But there are ways to help. These stories can have better endings because there is a group of trained volunteers, appointed by judges, to advocate for these children. People who build relationships with these abused and neglected children and make sure their basic rights and essential needs don’t get overlooked or ignored by the system.
Join a network of committed volunteers – from all walks of life – who believe society has a fundamental obligation to these children. Join the fight to make sure that every child has the right to be treated with dignity, to be safe, and to thrive in the embrace of a loving family. As a trained CASA Volunteer, you could provide mentoring and advocacy to a child who needs your support to heal from trauma and access services that will help him or her thrive.
What Others Say
"CASA volunteers are in our courtrooms daily assisting us with reviewing kids' progress. And that is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the good they accomplish in the community. "
The Honorable Marta S. Diaz The Honorable Clifford V. Cretan Judges of Juvenile Division, San Mateo County
Social Worker - "Advocates enhance my work with children. The one-to-one time spent with children provides a stable and nurturing environment that helps improve their self-esteem and future hopes"
Foster Parent - "Special thanks to our CASA volunteer Ms. Margaret. It is a blessing to hear that Ms. Margaret wants to stay with James through high school. Margaret is part of our family and we all love her and she always includes the other boys when she is able. I thank God for her daily"
CASA Youth - "Thanks for the books. Really I like it a lot. Also thanks for looking out for me. It means a lot to me as it means to you. You have helped me a lot and I really appreciate it a whole lot, only I don’t know how to repay you. I really don’t know much about friends but if I were to have a friend it’s you. Thanks Emily it means a lot to me"
EMBRACING OUR COMMUNITY PROGRAM
CASA’s Embracing Our Community Program increases the number of African American and Latino CASA volunteers in order to provide more effective and culturally sensitive services. Additionally, giving African American and Latino community members the opportunity to share their cultural perspectives regarding families and parenting improves the child welfare system’s understanding of these communities and reduces the disproportionate representation of these families in the system. CASA of San Mateo County is the only Court Appointed Special Advocates program nation-wide that trains and supports CASA volunteers fully in Spanish.
ACADEMIC SUCCESS PROGRAM
CASA of San Mateo County created the Academic Success Program to address poor educational outcomes for dependent children through individual and systemic advocacy. Currently, less than half of the Bay Area’s 7,000 foster youth graduate from high school. On average, foster youth attend nine different schools with records often lost. More than half suffer from mental health challenges as a result of trauma, and over 30% receive special education services because of disabilities. One of the Academic Success Program’s early and signature achievements was to fund and lead local efforts to finally understand whether San Mateo County’s dependent children stand compared foster student population samples highlighted in the academic research. The study, designed by a stakeholder group led by CASA of San Mateo County and conducted by Stanford researchers, confirmed what CASA staff suspected based on our experience in the field: our local foster students’ struggles were consistent with the research.
The Academic Success Program organizes CASA’s approach and philosophy towards supporting a child’s education success. Every CASA volunteer receives three hours of training in educational advocacy and is supported by a supervisor to execute this work. CASA of San Mateo County’s supervisors are expert in how local school systems operate and support each volunteer’s involvement in the school life of their assigned child. The Academic Success Program equips volunteers to provide the one-on-one educational support and advocacy by providing ad hoc supervisor support, specialized trainings, academic tool-kits tailored to local resources, and literature identified and highlighted in our volunteer newsletters. CASA volunteers ensure that their child’s academic needs will not be overlooked.
While we rely on our network of over 350 volunteers to provide one-on-one support, CASA staff is engaged in systemic academic advocacy that ensures that our child welfare partners – schools, child welfare, courts, probation, and community organizations – design systems that put children first. CASA of San Mateo County initiates conversations and convenes stakeholders. We are directly responsible for the Stanford research on the County’s dependent children, and facilitated meetings for the primary stakeholder group devoted to the education of foster children, the EdSupport Working Group. CASA’s Program Director chairs the local Blue Ribbon Commission’s Education Subcommittee. Under CASA’s leadership, this subcommittee convinced the relevant public agencies to adopt Foster Focus, a foster youth education database that links child welfare and education data. Currently, CASA is leading a partnership to create a more trauma-sensitive education system in San Mateo County. By shaping local policy and educating stakeholders and the community about the experiences of abused, neglected, and traumatized children, the Academic Success Program fosters communication and understanding about the school experiences community’s most vulnerable children.