SFCASA Launches New Website!
The new and improved site has a clean design, easier navigation, more useful information for volunteers and donors, a simple online application for prospective volunteers, frequently updated newsfeed, our blog, and much more! We invite you to tour the site and see for yourselves. Let us know what you think!
We’d like to thank Big Monkey Group for helping us with the design and creation of the new website.
Continue reading the newest issue of The Advocate below…
Table of Contents
- Letter from Sally
- Fostering Change Luncheon
- Volunteer Profile: Tami Epstein
- Client Milestones
- How You Can Help
- Save the Date – Hot October Nights
Letter from Sally
Dear Friends of SFCASA,
“I request CASA volunteers for the most difficult cases in my courtroom. CASAs are excellent investigators, mediators, and advocates. A volunteer is not only a benefit to the child that they serve, but an invaluable resource for the courts as well”.
-Former San Francisco Juvenile Court Presiding Judge, Donna J. Hitchens
When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge can appoint a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations that help the judge decide what’s best for the child.
A CASA volunteer is a consistent, reliable adult in a foster child’s life, an adult who cares, an adult who is usually the only unpaid person in that child’s life, an adult who offers safety, creates a sense of value and the fostering of well being for a child bewildered by the foster care system.
With over 1,000 foster youth in the San Francisco Dependency system we are continually called upon to provide CASA volunteers to foster youth. On a daily basis we serve approximately 200 youth and over the course of the year, we serve over 300 foster youth. To date this year our volunteers donated over 16,000 hours to their cases. And yet we still maintain a waitlist of 95.
We heartily thank YOU our loyal donors for your support of SFCASA through our appeals and our events. Our recent Fostering Change luncheon raised $125,000 to keep us supporting these vulnerable youth. To those that attended, thank you again! It was a fun, festive and informative luncheon. Follow up information and photos can be seen here.
Fostering Change Luncheon
This year’s Fostering Change Luncheon raised $125,000 to support SFCASA’s volunteer advocacy services for foster youth. The event also served to honor former Superior Court Judge Donna Hitchens who dedicated her career to improving outcomes for foster youth and was responsible for creating the San Francisco Unified Family Court to bring dependency, delinquency and family law into one division of the court, among many other accomplishments.
Chaired by CASA and Development Committee member, Tami Epstein, the event, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown San Francisco on May 16, 2012, was a huge success. Guests were moved by the inspirational program of speakers including former CASA Judy Pasquinelli, former foster youth Kathleen Casela, Dependency Panel Attorney Hong Chew, and Executive Director, Sally Coates. We were also delighted to have in attendance Marshawn Lynch, Bay Area native and running back for the Seattle Seahawks, who is committed to supporting foster children and at-risk youth through his own charitable activities. Guests enjoyed an impromptu live auction of two footballs signed by Mr. Lynch, won by two lucky attendees. The event was emceed by Jan Yanehiro and sponsored by Western Athletic Clubs, Charles Schwab, Duane Morris, Shartsis Friese LLP and Blue Shield of California.
Thank you to all that attended! We hope to see you next year!
Volunteer Profile: Tami Epstein
At SFCASA we are so grateful for volunteers like Tami Epstein. Tami was sworn-in as a CASA in 2009 and has been working with a pair of young siblings since. She says she was drawn to this unique type of service for the chance to “lend my voice to somebody who needed it.” She is an inherently generous individual who is committed to social justice and doing what’s right.
There’s also a personal kinship Tami feels for foster children. As a child, she had a difficult experience during her parents’ divorce. She felt her world was out of her control, much like the experience of a foster child. “I never had an advocate to speak up for me,” she shared during a recent phone conversation. So she became an advocate for others.
For the past three years, Tami has served as a CASA for Kevin* (8) and his younger sister Kayla* (5). In addition to a CASA’s duty of ensuring that the children’s medical and dental health needs are met, Tami assumed legal responsibility over the children’s education. As a court-appointed “Educational Surrogate,” Tami holds these rights exclusively, but she encourages the parent’s involvement at every step.
Both of the children have suffered from severe educational needs. First, Kevin was discovered to have a learning disability. Through Tami’s research and support, he has been placed in special education, which is a more appropriate fit, and he has been improving remarkably. She has also been able to enroll Kevin in a private summer school program that normally costs several thousand dollars, but thanks to Tami’s persistence, will accept a nominal charge.
Kayla, when Tami first started on the case, had no speech at two years old. Unfortunately, the family had a difficult time admitting there was a problem, but Tami persevered and secured speech therapy services for Kayla. She is now making “tremendous progress,” Tami says with pride in her voice.
Working with the family has its ups and downs. The children reside with their grandmother and when Tami first visited, it was clear that Grandma was wary of having another unfamiliar adult intruding in their lives. Despite the fact that she was caring for 15 grandchildren spanning all ages, she saw no need for help. But Tami, always the optimist, had an idea. Seeing how Grandma often made Rice-a-Roni for the kids, she offered to teach her to make homemade rice pilaf. Grandma agreed and Tami brought over all the ingredients. Bonding over a simmering pot of rice, Grandma shared that no one had ever taught her how to cook anything. She realized then that Tami was there to help not only the kids, but the family as a whole.
Tami is also setting an example of philanthropy and generosity for her own kids. Her son, Adam, recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah and used the opportunity to demonstrate his own charitable values. During the ceremony, Adam spoke to his family and friends about making a change in the community, referring to Michael Jackson’s song, “Man in the Mirror” as inspiration. As the song says, change starts with oneself, but then must be acted upon by reaching out to others.
Adam pledged to make a change. He asked that family and friends make a gift to SFCASA. And he started with himself by donating a portion of his Bar Mitzvah gifts. Tami was so proud of how responsible her son was in not only following through with his pledge, but insisting on delivering his donation in person to the SFCASA office.
Most recently, Adam organized a bake sale at his school and, with his sister’s help, raised a healthy sum for SFCASA. We are so lucky to have the Epstein Family as part of the SFCASA family.
*Names have been changed to protect our clients.
Daily victories worth celebrating…
Gabriela* (15) confided in her CASA that the reason why she was so often truant from school was because kids teased her for looking like a boy. Gabriela’s non-English speaking immigrant family didn’t know how to help their daughter who was obviously struggling. The CASA found her a unique school with a no tolerance policy toward isolating a student for whatever differences he or she might have. In this supportive environment, Gabriela is much more confident and her attendance has greatly improved.
Thanks to the support of her CASA, Kaitlyn* (12) was accepted into the SOAR for Youth Program which will provide her with academic support, enrichment, counseling, and outdoor adventure camps for the next 3 years.
Tara* (14) was expelled for fighting at a school where she was recently placed. Her CASA and Educational Surrogate, Monica*, urged the attorney, social worker and foster child student services representative to look into the matter. As a new student and without the support of a family, the school administration had not listened to Tara’s account of the incident. Once both sides were heard and the issue was resolved, Monica was able to get the expulsion off Tara’s record.
Thanks to Case Supervisors Judy and Carly for sharing these milestones with us.
*Client and Volunteer names have been changed to protect their privacy.
How You Can Help
- Send a donation today
- Mail your check to 100 Bush Street, Suite 650, San Francisco, CA 94104
- To make an online donation, use our safe and secure giving form at www.sfcasa.org by clicking on the Donate Now button.
- Make an Honor or Memorial Gift
- Celebrate a loved one and we will send a personal, handwritten note to either the individual or the individual’s family notifying them.
- Create a Legacy in your estate plan
- Planned gifts can have significant tax benefits for donors and their heirs; you should discuss these and other giving methods with your attorney, accountant or other financial advisor.
- Corporate Matching Gifts
- Matching gifts from your employer are a convenient way to double the value of your contribution to SFCASA. Many employers will match cash, volunteer hours, and in-kind donations. Please contact your employer for further information.
- Donate used items to Community Thrift Store, 623 Valencia St, and SFCASA will benefit.
- Use SFCASA Organization #128 when dropping off items. Visit www.communitythriftsf.org for more information.
SFCASA is an independent 501(c) (3) charitable organization. Gifts to SFCASA are tax deductible. Our Federal Tax ID number is 94-3039028.
For more information on any of these giving options, please contact Lisa Endo, Development Coordinator, at (415) 399-6129 or Lisa@sfcasa.org.
Save the Date
The SFCASA Guild’s 4th annual benefit, Hot October Nights: Moon Over Morocco is on October 18, 2012. Be sure to mark your calendars as you will not want to miss what Event Chairs, Christine Capulong, Debbie Degutis and Gail Nebenzahl have in store…dinner, music, dancing, and both a live and silent auction to benefit San Francisco’s foster youth.
We are currently seeking event sponsors and donated auction items.
Email HON2012@sfcasa.org for more information.