Congratulations to our 2019 Summer Standout!
This quarter we are highlighting our CASA Tim Chevalier for the exemplary work he has done with his CASA youth. Although selfless and humble, when it comes to youth advocacy, Tim’s presence is confident and clear and his approach is about empowerment and youth-centered unconditional care. He is an intuitive listener, as he is able to understand more than what is being said, and he uses this skill to be a fierce advocate to support his youth’s needs. Tim has become a master at navigating the challenging systems and institutions associated with foster care, skillfully positioning his youth for success despite the obstacles. Tim’s youth has no doubt that he is there for him and that Tim will ensure he has safe environments to grow and thrive. As a team player, Tim has a gentle way of getting his youth’s support team to function at its absolute best, and makes sure his youth feels heard and influential when it comes to decisions made about his life. Thank you Tim for being and amazing CASA!
This quarter we are pleased to celebrate
Njeri McGee-Tyner as our CASA Stand Out for Spring 2019.
Does Veronica’s story inspire you?
Learn More About How YOU Can Become a CASA Volunteer!
CASA Is In The News! Check out the article featuing CASA in the Hacienda Pulse!
By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer
Since it was established in 1987, the Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program has promoted and supported quality volunteer advocates to speak for the best interests of youth in the dependency court system. CASA is part of a national nonprofit whose goal is to provide supportive services to children and families in the juvenile dependency court and foster care system.
Volunteer advocates are matched with individual children in the foster care system; there are 1,700 such children in Alameda County. CASA volunteers act as mentors, advocates, and support systems for the abused, neglected, or abandoned children who have become part of the dependency court system through no fault of their own.
“Being a CASA advocate is a very powerful role to have in the life of a child,” says Jacqueline España, MPH, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator for Alameda County CASA. “We see enormous impact, both for the youth as well as the volunteers. Our volunteers experience a lot of personal growth, which is a beautiful thing.”
To become a CASA volunteer, community members complete a 30-hour training program and agree to a year of service. That may sound daunting but the advocate role requires only 10 to 15 hours per month, according to CASA. Nearly 35 Tri-Valley residents are currently volunteers, but many more volunteers are needed.
“Our wait list hovers between 40 and 50 children,” says España, “and we have a goal to serve even more youth in the foster care system each year. We could use more volunteers from the Tri-Valley, especially men.”
Among other things, CASA volunteers help youth navigate their bi-annual court dates, check in on their educational and employment goals, make sure their housing is safe, help them connect to community resources, and listen to their dreams. Volunteers themselves are part of a larger team working on behalf of foster youth.
“You are never alone in doing this work,” says España. “You are connecting to the entire team that surrounds that youth so you can really make great strides with that youth if you are communicating well with their child welfare worker, their attorney, potentially a therapist, or a school teacher and together helping that child achieve their goals.”
The support that CASA volunteer advocates provide in a few hours each month has an outsized impact on the future well-being of these children. “CASA volunteers are often the only unpaid people in their lives,” says Ginni Ring, CASA Executive Director. “Our volunteers are able to see these children as individuals. They help them feel self-worth and achieve their goals.”
Experienced CASA volunteers known as Peer Coordinators supervise other volunteers. One such Peer Coordinator lives in Livermore and coaches five other CASA volunteers who meet monthly at her home. If a group of people from the Tri-Valley wanted to come to a training together and become volunteers, they would ultimately have convenient, nearby support.
CASA is a member of the Tri-Valley consortium of faith communities and nonprofits called the Foster Care Collaborative Cohort. The Cornerstone Fellowship faith community in Livermore works closely with CASA. The church donates monthly to CASA and recruits CASA volunteers via its website, workshop events, and word of mouth.
People who want to support CASA but are unable to volunteer can follow Cornerstone’s example and donate directly to the organization. CASA also holds an annual fundraising event each spring.
For more information about the Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program, please visit https://www.casaofalamedacounty.org.
This quarter we are pleased to celebrate Alexandra Ferry as our CASA Stand Out for Summer 2018. Alexandra advocates diligently through a holistic lens and sincerely listens to her foster youth. During the 2018 school year, Alexandra attended teacher meetings and monitored her foster youth’s academic progress, supported her youth while she recovered from surgery, and collaborated with numerous systems to secure funding for structured YMCA Summer Camps while the case transitioned to a different Child Welfare Worker. She remains a trusted sounding board for the care givers and an active, healthy role model for her youth. A CASA’s efforts live on in the lives and memories of the children we serve. Bravo, Alexandra!
How long have you been a CASA?
I have been a CASA since December 2017.
How did you first hear about CASA?
I first heard about CASA when I was attending college. I was sitting in at a children’s court room observing for my Legal Issues in Social Work class, when a women came in and sat next to me. She wore a badge that said CASA and had her picture on it. I quietly asked who she was and what her role was for the case. She opened my eyes to the wonderful work that I am so fortunate to participate in today.
How old is your CASA youth?
My CASA youth is 5 year’s old.
What’s one thing you love about being a CASA?
One thing I love about being a CASA is that I am making a positive impact in a child’s life every day. Having the opportunity to be a positive influence and providing an environment where my CASA youth is able to escape the traumatic hardships they are facing is more than rewarding. I am giving my CASA youth the tools to make new memories, meet new friends, and offer her a childhood that she would not otherwise have.
What was a challenge you didn’t expect?
Before I started my time as a CASA, I thought that I would be coming into an environment where all parties associated with the child’s life were on the same team – working towards the same goal of reunifying the family and doing what’s best for the child. Yet, while all parties are trying to do what’s best for the child at hand, everyone has different ideas, philosophies, and ways to do what’s best. Although we all have the end goal of re unifying the family, if that is best for the child, each of us is working as a separate entity and trying to connect all parties is a challenge.
How has being a CASA changed you?
Being a CASA has opened my eyes to life’s difficult challenges, but it has also taught me that although a child may experience trauma and confusion at an early age, they can presevere and show you all the love and determination they have, if you prove that you will forever be in their corner.
We are pleased to recognize Nicole Wideman as our CASA Standout for Spring 2018. Nicole has consistently supported her youth, who is placed out-of-county, for almost two years. She does a great job of advocating for her youth’s best interests within the team and ensures critical issues don’t fall by the wayside in between court hearings. Recently, Nicole took a resource recommendation from her CASA supervisor and ran with it—the result is that her youth is receiving fully-funded braces through Smile for a Lifetime! Getting braces for a foster youth is no small feat; this is a huge accomplishment that almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if Nicole wasn’t on the case.
This quarter we are highlighting our CASA Karen for the great work she has done with her CASA youth. We appreciate Karen’s approach to advocating and want others to hear about it! Karen has been able to celebrate her youth’s strengths, interests, and successes; take them on amazing and impactful outings; be sensitive to their needs; and, she has a gentle way of keeping the child’s team on course. We have no doubt the youth she works with feels special when they’re with you!
How long have you been a CASA? Nearly 1 year.
How did you first hear about CASA? I worked with someone many years ago who was a CASA for a foster youth in college.
How old is your CASA youth? Eight years old.
What’s one thing you love about being a CASA? I love being a CASA because it has brought this exceptional young boy into my life. He has a love of life and is so gregarious with others – young and old – that he is a joy to be around. He is also a very affectionate kid. The challenge I face that I didn’t expect is not being able to spend time with him in a home, mine or someone else’s. He is behind in reading and there is nothing I would like more than to be able to sit with him on a couch and read or bake cookies in a kitchen. Instead we are more active and do outside things, which is great too. Being a CASA has shown me the extra trials and difficulties that low income families face. It can be overwhelming.