Welcome to our newest class of advocates!

On Thursday, February 23rd San Francisco Superior Court Judge Nancy Davis swore in a class of 31 advocates who are now ready to match with a child and begin the journey of a CASA volunteer. This most recent class brings our total of new advocates trained and sworn in to 96 for the program year, well on our way to surpass our goal of 109! With these new advocates, we know we'll also exceed our goal of serving 280 youth this year.

Our group of advocates has a wide range of professional experience, including a nurse, physical therapist, attorney, and financial analyst. They have completed 40 hours of training and will be matching with their youth in the coming weeks. We are especially excited to welcome 11 men in this new class, an SFCASA record! Take a look at some of the photos from last night's event:

A Message from SFCASA Executive Director Renee Espinoza

Dear Friends,

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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,

Renee Espinoza

Executive Director

SFCASA Hits the Water With Another Rafting Trip

The following comes from Brittni Tanenbaum, our Educational Advocacy Coordinator, and Erika Dirkse, our Program Director, who both attended our white water rafting trip this weekend. Read out to hear about the amazing time they had with some lucky young people! 

This past weekend, SFCASA embarked on the second annual whitewater rafting trip down the American River with Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC). This year, we also had the wonderful opportunity to partner with SF ILSP! We hope to do so again next year to share in this fabulous opportunity for outdoor education and positive risk-taking with more young people!

After the early morning drive, all seven of us came together for introductions, games, and safety talks by the wonderful ETC guides. After some light swimming to get everyone comfortable in the water, we were ready to go!

Our five hours on the river started out with calm waters, but quickly developed into some class 2 rapids. After a wonderful lunch on the side of the river, we were ready to test the techniques we had gotten down before lunch and launched out into some class 3 rapids. Between our two rafts, there was non-stop laughter and fun, particularly when we were rolling through some large rapids or perfecting our techniques of splashing each other between the rafts. Looking at the joy in our group, you would have never thought most of us were new to whitewater rafting or that anyone had felt anxiety at the beginning of the day.

At the end of the day, youth were inquiring about how to get out on the water more and volunteer with ETC! Our group will never forget the wonderful day we spent together in the beautiful outdoors and we are all eager for more rafting next summer!

Welcome To Our Newest Class of CASA Volunteers!

On Thursday, June 9, 2016 we swore in another new class of 27 CASA volunteers!

These community members -- including a former nurse, restaurant manager, and an attorney -- will soon be matched with a foster youth in need of a CASA. Their commitment will help us to reduce the number of youth on the waitlist for a CASA and ensure that the voices of these children are heard. Scroll through the photos below to take a look at the exciting day!