CASA Celebrates 20 Years in SLO County
When asked to share about her experience of having a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Andrea* says, "My whole life got better when my CASA entered my life. She always encouraged me to reach for the stars. She always told me I could be and do anything I wanted; all I had to do was the footwork to get there."
CASA is a national non-profit organization focused on advocating for the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA recruits, trains, and supervises volunteer advocates for children in the foster care system with the goal of ensuring that each and every child grows up in a safe, nurturing, and permanent home. A local foster parent and business owner named Susan Polk took the steps to start the SLO County CASA program after she experienced firsthand the lack of resources and education available to foster parents within the county.
One of the greatest benefits of a CASA's presence is consistency. CASA volunteers usually meet with their assigned child once a week. Jennifer* describes her CASA as being one of the first adults to give her individual attention: "I was assigned a CASA volunteer when I was in foster care. She sat me down and told me she was there just for me. It wasn't about my parents or anyone else. It was about me and my future. At that point I'd talked with a lot of people—lawyers and social workers and such—but that was the first time someone had said that to me. It changed my attitude and it changed my life."
Jennifer is not alone in this feeling. Many foster children have shared the experience of feeling overlooked as they are shuffled through the process of finding a permanent home. For Andrea, her CASA is someone who always stood by her side to root for her and advocate for her needs. Speaking of her CASA's dependability she says, "She fought for me. She selflessly took the time out of her day to spend with me. She was constantly there and was always encouraging of everything I did. Having a CASA--someone to talk to who was consistent and who did the things they did because deep down inside they just care--made a world of difference to me."
CASA's focus always has been and always will be the well-being of the abused and neglected children of this County. Since 1993, more than 2,000 children have had the benefit of a CASA volunteer. Currently 100 volunteers serve 150 children in San Luis Obispo County. However, approximately 350 local children are still awaiting assignment of a CASA volunteer to advocate for them.
*Names were changed to protect privacy and confidentiality
*Written by Kelly Shaw