Our mission is to train community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of San Francisco's foster youth.
Our core advocacy program forms the largest portion of our work. We recruit, screen, train, and supervise volunteers who provide one-on-one advocacy for some of the most vulnerable children in our city: foster youth.
SFCASA uses a strengths-based approach to create individualized advocacy plans tailored to the unique circumstances of each youth. Comprehensive court- and community-based advocacy covers the needs of the whole child and addresses areas vital to healthy youth development: Education; Placement (in a safe and healthy home); Physical, Mental, and Behavioral Health; Independent Living; Permanency; and Well-Being.
Our volunteer advocates are sworn in as officers of the San Francisco Juvenile Dependency Court. Throughout their time on a youth's dependency case, they meet and work with the youth's caregivers, family, teachers, social workers, lawyers, coaches, healthcare providers, and more. Our CASAs work hard to understand their youth's hopes and dreams, and strive to reach the outcomes supporting the youth's best interests.
Educational Advocacy + Educational Rights Holders
With the growing challenge of advocating for educational services to address the learning needs of foster children, SFCASA has developed and implemented an Educational Advocacy Program. All volunteers are trained around educational advocacy to become champions for the education needs of their youth, while consulting on specific issues and complex cases with the Educational Advocacy Specialist. All volunteers review their youth's school records, establish regular communication with the foster child's school regarding academic progress or behavioral concerns, work with counselors, therapists, and social workers, attend teacher conferences, help youth research and apply to colleges, and make recommendations to the court regarding a youth's educational needs.
In addition to the CASA role, SFCASA is increasing the number of CASA volunteers qualified to serve as court-appointed Educational Rights Holders, making important educational decisions and enhancing foster youths' success by increasing their access to specialized services tailored to their needs. Beyond the initial core CASA training, volunteers interested in holding education rights for a young person engage in further training about what it means to hold education rights and how to effectively hold this role for a young person.
SFCASA also promotes policy improvements to address the educational achievement of foster children by collaborating with public and nonprofit organizations, serving on steering committees and task forces, and presenting to public school administrators and teachers.
To learn more about the support CASAs provide around education, please visit our Educational Advocacy Resources. For more information about becoming an Educational Rights Holder for a young person in foster care, please contact Mia Ragent, our Educational Advocacy Specialist.
Former foster youth are at a greater disadvantage than their non-foster care peers. They're considerably less likely to have acquired the necessary skills, supports, and resources to confidently enter the world and successfully transition into independent adult living.
Almost 40% of former foster youth have experienced homelessness by age 24. Close to 60% have experienced symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, and more than 25% have neither a high school diploma nor a high school equivalency certificate, such as a GED, by age 25. Former foster youth disproportionately experience higher levels of unemployment, incarceration, homelessness, and mental and physical health problems.
SFCASA's Pre-Emancipation program serves the nearly 60% of SFCASA clients age 14 and up. The program focuses on building advocates' skills to partner with young adults to identify strengths and interests, promote self-advocacy, and help youth develop the skills and community of support they will need to transition to independence. We also work closely with local agencies to increase individually tailored access to services for education, employment, healthcare, and stable housing. With the roll-out of Extended Foster Care in 2012, SFCASA expanded its programming to serve eligible young adults until their 21st birthday. This included the creation of a standing county-wide workgroup of service providers, advocates, and youth focused on improving outcomes for San Francisco's young adults exiting foster care.
For more information about our Pre-Emancipation program, please contact Erika Dirkse, our Program Director.
COURT DOG pROGRAM
San Francisco CASA’s Court Dog program provides a highly trained facility dog in the courtroom during Family Court proceedings involving foster youth and their families, helping to deescalate tensions and create a feeling of calm. “Nemo” a gentle Labrador Retriever, was expertly trained by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and is partnered with Nemo’s facilitator and co-facilitator, both of whom completed an intensive, two-week training at CCI. Nemo is well-behaved, loving and extremely calm, encouraging a feeling of security and safety for traumatized children and youth as well as providing a sense of calm to relatives, caregivers, and even legal staff involved in the proceedings.
Click here for KPIX TV’s coverage of Nemo’s official swearing in.