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Foster Care Advocates at CASA LA, Carry Out Mission, But Need More Support
By Jennifer Bihm
Published August 9, 2018

(L-R) Daniel Battle, Sharon Battle, Carol Truscott and Samuel Herod meet at a CASA meeting hosted by First AME Church of Los Angeles. (photo by Cora J. Fossett/ Sentinel file)

Members of Los Angeles’ Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization dedicated to the safety and well- being of foster children, recently announced a successful fiscal year, resulting in the ability to garner resources and markedly improve their services. The financial results for the year mark a new high point for the organization members said, “shattering previous bests for unique children helped while also continuing to significantly reduce the ‘cost per child’ of providing service and expand its volunteer rolls. But, while they are aggressively doing what they can to help as many children as possible there are still 30,000 kids in the LA County child welfare system, the vast majority of whom still need aid, they said.

“2018 has been a triumphant, record-breaking year at CASA/LA,” said CASA/LA CEO Wende Nichols Julien.

“A massive thanks to all of our staff, volunteers and donors for believing we could accomplish this and working to achieve it. As long as there are children that need help, we will continue to grow and improve our services, until every child in the LA County foster care system that needs a CASA has a CASA.”

Benchmarks achieved last year, according to a spokesperson for CASA, include:

  • 1,124 unique children served with intense one-on-one advocacy services, an 18% increase over 2017 and 39% over 2016.
  • 402 new CASAs trained, an increase of 25% over 2017 and 100% over 2016, greatly expanding volunteer base
  • 931 unique appointed CASAs – an increase of 25% over 2017
  • 10% reduction on average “cost-per-child-served”, which beat forecasts for FY2018 by 2% and marks a 26% reduction from 2016.
  • CASA/LA also ended FY2018 with a significant surplus, enabling the organization to weather economic uncertainties regionally without risking cutbacks in advocacy services for children.

CASA started their first program in 1978 under the leadership of Judge Peter Giannini, who secured a four-year federal start-up grant. The program, then known as the Child Advocates Office, was under the guidance of Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court, Richard “Skip” Byrne and Supervising Judge Paul Boland. In 1983, Friends of Child Advocates, now CASA of Los Angeles, founded by Jacqueline Dolan, organized a public/private partnership to increase awareness and raise money for the recruitment, training and support of volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children under the care of the Dependency Court, according to the organization’s website.

In 2015, CASA teamed up with FAME in Los Angeles, increasing their number of volunteers. One volunteer, Carol Truscott,  gave her testimony that year, presenting a real life picture of how an organization like CASA can benefit children.

“This is my second year as a CASA. I have three siblings. One is 18, 16 and one just turned nine,” she told the Sentinel in an interview that year.

“The two older ones said that before they got a CASA, they saw secondary education as unbelievable. But, after I talked about what they wanted for themselves, they were motivated to go that route. One graduated this past June, going to LACC and her goal is to transfer to USC and become a child psychologist.”

Their mission, said officials, is to alleviate the feelings of abandonment and alienation that scars young lives as they are abused and neglected.

“Nowhere in the nation is the problem greater than in Los Angeles County, where 30,000 children who have been abused or neglected are under the jurisdiction of the Dependency Court,” CASA officials said.

“One-third of these children are age 0-5; infants and toddlers are the fastest growing group of abused children. CASA provided one-on-one advocacy to 949 children in FY2017, in addition to 4,097 children with day-of-court assistance through Shelter Care.”

CASA accomplishes this mission they said, by harnessing the compassion and generosity of caring adults who can and do have an enormous impact on the development of the child at all ages.

“Volunteers get to know the children and their circumstances, show them that someone cares, advocate for their best interests, encourage them to grow to their fullest potential, and become involved in key issues in their life, especially permanent placement, and school, health, and mental health issues,” according to their website.

“A CASA volunteer is often the sole consistent adult anchor for foster children. Children frequently remark how important it is to them that these tireless advocates are the only people in “the system” who are not paid to assist them. CASA volunteers give a voice to a child who cannot speak up for herself or himself and are frequently viewed as mentors or guides…”

CASA LA is community supported project and is among the largest of regional programs in a national and state-wide volunteer network serving foster children. Studies have shown that children with CASA receive more assistance and support than children without, and are more likely to be adopted or returned to their families and less likely to reenter the child welfare system. For more information, visit the CASA of Los Angeles website: http://www.casala.org.

Categories: Family | Local | News (Family)
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