This New Year’s message is different. With news of today’s inauguration everywhere, I’ve been reflecting on what the future holds for our children in foster care.
As someone whose communities have been disparaged and attacked this year, I have felt this political change more personally than any other in my lifetime. Still, I am more determined than ever to provide our youth with a voice, ensure their rights are upheld, and promote their well-being for a safe and happy childhood.
It seems possible that the Federal government will make real cuts to existing housing and family programs, putting additional stress on families. And we know that stress is the most common precursor to abuse and neglect. I am also extremely concerned that changes in the juvenile or criminal justice system could mean more of our young people may be punished just when they need support, extending cycles of poverty, crime and abuse.
Despite my fears, I am heartened by how our own community is responding. This week we begin the largest CASA training class in my four-year tenure, a diverse class of our neighbors who are committing to making a difference right here in San Francisco. And this December we saw an outpouring of financial support, with many individuals providing unsolicited support to us for the first time. We received heartfelt notes, many expressing sentiments like “I had to do something positive.” and “I felt helpless and know that change starts locally.”
I'm proud of the growth of our programs this past year – in 2016 we trained more new volunteer advocates than at any other time in our 25-year history. We’re also having increased impact on the individuals we are serving and our most vulnerable communities. I feel fortunate for what I’d describe as the most committed, effective, generous board of directors I’ve ever worked with and a staff that is second to none.
I also generally believe that the decisions our cities, counties and states are making are more important and impact us more directly than most any change implemented by the Federal government. Still, I fear that we may slide back. I know that past cuts in social programs and services have resulted in an explosion of homeless and insecure families – and more abused children – and we have to brace ourselves and fight similar mistakes.
What gives me hope is seeing how many of our community members are stepping up to make a difference and knowing that there are opportunities for everyone. We are not helpless. We may not be able to directly impact the cabinet nomination process, but we can make a difference right here, the kind of difference that builds real change.
So I ask you, our CASA community, to join me and encourage everyone you know to join in, step up, and make our communities better. I am sharing three opportunities and ask you to share these with your network. Whether you or your friends opt for these or other opportunities, please join me in nurturing hope over helplessness.
1. Become a foster parent – we know that a loving home is the best place for a child. Visit www.sfcaresforkids.org for more information.
2. Become a CASA volunteer – by investing a few hours a week, you can directly impact a child. Visit www.sfcasa.org/volunteer for a schedule of volunteer info sessions.
3. Become a Champion for Children – by making a monthly gift, you allow us to plan responsibly for growth to ensure more children have the support of a caring, consistent adult. Visit www.sfcasa.org/monthly-giving.
We are lucky to call the Bay Area home, and we all have talents and resources that can make change.
Yours in community,