The success of SFCASA reflects a community will to improve quality of life, expand opportunity, and prevent delinquency for abused and neglected children in foster care. Since 1991 SFCASA has been committed to providing one-on-one volunteer advocacy and mentorship to foster children and youth. SFCASA began operations with a class of 11 volunteers and has since trained over 2,672 CASA’s. Today SFCASA has more than 329 volunteers and in the last year has provided services to 321 court dependent children.
In 1989, when I first learned of the CASA program for kids caught in the legal system, started by Judge David Soukup in Seattle, I was so excited I immediately started looking for the local program in San Francisco. Disappointed to learn that we didn’t have one, I found the San Jose program and took the training there. That was when I met Judge Len Edwards. “What you ought to be doing,” he told me, “is starting a CASA in your own county.” With his encouragement, we did just that. Supported by the National and California CASA organizations, we were able to overcome some challenging hurdles and build what has become one of the most effective CASA programs in California.
In the early days, there were very few of us and we had to make every phone call count. But as I tell everyone, I discovered that “being a CASA volunteer will teach you more about yourself than you ever thought you needed to know.” The search for funders, of any size, was a constant struggle, but was also so rewarding because it allowed us to share the CASA story with a continually expanding circle of new friends and supporters. And as the circle grew, so also grew the number of kids we were able to serve – the best part of the story. In the fall of 1991, our first class had eleven graduates; when the new volunteers were recognized by San Francisco’s court system and assigned to cases, we knew we were on our way.
Since that first graduation, San Francisco CASA has grown to 325 volunteers, with 130 additional volunteers newly graduating each year. But while I feel thankful for this extraordinary blossoming, I am acutely aware of how many children remain just beyond our fingertips, urgently needing our help.
These are tough financial times and sadly, one of the things that comes out of tough financial times is more neglect and more abuse. While it’s our goal to work ourselves out of a job, we are not there yet. So we need your help.
The Honorable Douglas Johnson said “Judges sleep better knowing that children in foster care have a CASA volunteer watching over them.” I ask you to help build San Francisco’s CASA program into an enduring legacy. You can help ensure that the children in need have the CASA advocates to guide them through this part of their lives, by making a life-changing, and tax-deductible donation, to San Francisco CASA.
Many blessings, as always,