by Kayla Gonzalez
Being a court appointed special advocate can lead to life-changing opportunities for foster youth in our community. National CASA statistics show that, on average, a foster youth will remain within the foster care system for at least two years, during which they will live in three different homes, attend nine different schools, and work with up to seven different social workers. This instability takes a dramatic emotional toll and leaves these youth longing for a stable place to call their own. The only consistency that many foster youth will encounter is a CASA volunteer, a caring and consistent adult willing to get to know them and provide the secure attachment they need to thrive.
Many of our advocates thought about volunteering for years before joining our organization. Martin*, a current CASA, admitted that he was nervous at first about the time commitment volunteering would entail. But once Martin joined the program, he quickly discovered the tangible difference that he was able to make in the life of his foster youth, Daniel*, and his fears soon dissolved.
While the time commitment involved in becoming and serving as a CASA is substantial, so too are the benefits for both foster youth and volunteer. Martin proudly says “...[the] most gratifying [thing] is knowing that Daniel, now fourteen years old, has reason to trust [me] and considers me a friend that he can count on.”
Our CASAs don’t wear capes; they aren’t superheroes. They’re real people like you who decided to be a part of a solution to create brighter futures for the youth in our community. Their leap of faith has made all the difference in the lives of over 250 foster youth who have had a volunteer speak up for their best interests within the last year.
Becoming a CASA volunteer is not a commitment to be taken lightly. We expect our volunteers to have an unwavering dedication to serving the children of our community. Each child deserves to have their voice heard and an advocate will often be the only hope they have to see their rights honored, their goals fought for, and their futures protected.
Our advocates empower each child by indulging in their dreams and igniting their passions. They facilitate personal development, growth, and discovery by challenging the youth they serve to reach their full potential. Volunteers take responsibility in familiarizing themselves with all caregivers involved in the child’s life. By doing so, they are capable of providing the insight needed for critical decision making. They take a stand both in and out of the courtroom to advocate for the conditions that allow their foster youth to excel daily, whether that means ensuring that educational concerns are addressed properly or enabling youth to have access to recreational activities.
Elsa*, a volunteer for four years, has had the privilege of discovering the artistic talent of her youth Caitlin*. Caitlin found her passion for architecture through a cell phone given to her by SFCASA. The seemingly simple gift allowed Caitlin to pursue photography throughout the summer and encouraged her dream of attending architecture school. Elsa and Caitlin’s positive relationship set her on a path towards a successful future. The youth we serve learn to lean on the dependability of our volunteers as we celebrate their victories, both big and small. Our CASAs ensure each child has a healthy, secure, and encouraging environment in which to thrive.
Our advocates are as unique in their personal experience as the children they serve. Some grew under court dependency themselves, while others have a resounding passion for service. Each has their own reason for wanting to make a difference, which helps them to serve unique roles in the lives of each child with whom they develop a relationship. Our CASAs continue to prove just how capable real people are of accomplishing amazing things in the eyes of a foster youth.
Here at SFCASA, we want to encourage you to take the first step towards creating a bright future for the leaders of tomorrow. In San Francisco alone, over 700 foster youth do not yet have a CASA, and there are over 70 on the waitlist to receive one. Achieving the basic right to a loving and safe home for each foster child starts with our volunteers, who we provide with the necessary tools to address the challenges standing in the way of success. One-on-one mentorship provides an opportunity for each foster youth to learn and grow. A foster youth can vastly improve their ability to achieve their goals simply by having a CASA cheering in their corner, reminding them that anything is possible. Our mission of serving every foster child in San Francisco can only be achieved through enlisting the most qualified candidates we know; could you be one of them?
Care and compassion are all the experience that you need to succeed as a CASA volunteer. SFCASA exists to train community volunteers to serve as officers of the court and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the foster care system. With your help, we can unlock SFCASA's greatest potential and humbly reshape what it means to serve. All it takes is a leap of faith and a resolution to champion the children of our community.