Yolo County CASA sets goal to serve every child
Supporting our most vulnerable children
In our own community, there are abused and neglected children who live in the shadows of our lives. She may be the little girl in your son’s kindergarten class who had to move homes and change schools three or four times in the last year. He may be the lonely child at the park who doesn’t join the game.
The foster care and child welfare system is full of compassionate lawyers, judges, social workers and foster families, but according to recent statistics Yolo County has nearly 300 children in foster care. The economic downturn and shrinking budgets have reduced resources available to help. This intense need can strain the system to the point where too little time and attention is paid to each individual child’s needs.
So the little girl who has already suffered neglect at home enters the foster care system, and ends up in multiple placements and schools in just a few months. Or the two siblings who lost their mother to incarceration have to be split up and live on different sides of the same county.
Yolo County is a local nonprofit organization (based on a national model) which trains and supports volunteers—people like you and me—to speak and act as advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children. They are trained to work within the child welfare system and are appointed by judges to individual cases. With the help of a CASA volunteer, a child is half as likely to languish in the foster care system and that much more likely to find a safe and permanent home.
I have seen firsthand the transformative impact a CASA volunteer can have on a child. As in the case of a seventeen year old girl, who spent years in foster care and was struggling to keep up with school while living in a chaotic environment. Because her CASA was there for her, and knew immediately when her school performance started to decline, she was able to get support from her social worker and attorney. The judge ensured that changes occurred at home which helped her to graduate from high school. Happily, she continued her education and has since graduated from college!
Today we are serving 51 of Yolo County’s kids in foster care. By 2020, we want to be serving every child who needs a qualified CASA volunteer looking out for their best interests. To do this, we need to more than triple our numbers of CASA volunteers. We also need to increase our budget to hire the staff required to support these volunteers. Especially needed are volunteers of color, as African American and Latino children are overrepresented in the child welfare and foster court system. Every child has a right to thrive, to be treated with dignity, and to live in a safe, loving home. Every child deserves a fighting chance.
Once grown, these former foster kids can be our future doctors, teachers and leaders. Coming through a period of vulnerability and fear, the child can understand his potential and his rights. She will believe in herself. That is our opportunity and our challenge.
I invite the people of Yolo County to stand up with me and support these children.