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I Am for the Child Campaign Video

 

 

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Hearts of Yolo:  The Stories Behind Children in Need
 
In the U.S. there are nearly 700,000 children in the child welfare system at any given time. Nearly 400 of these children are from Yolo County and many hearts are needed to give them a fair chance at a happy life. Hearts can touch these children's lives in many ways. Some selfless hearts choose to be foster parents, some committed hearts choose to be CASAs, some generous hearts choose to be on CASA's Board of Directors or donate to the cause. Other astute hearts choose to educate others about and manage organizations that serve these vulnerable children. 
 

At Yolo County CASA we strive to tell the stories of all of these special hearts in hopes that this education will help others realize where their heart can help to fill the heart of a child in need. Welcome to our Hearts of Yolo campaign. Check back often to read our stories.

 

 

"I became a CASA nearly 15 years ago because I wanted to understand the foster care system and play a positive role in the life of a foster child. The experience of foster care is so different from mine, in which I had siblings and two stable parents. I thought moving homes once during my childhood was an ordeal. Foster kids can move several times in a year, tossing their belongings back into a garbage bag each time. I’ve found that the appreciation they have for a stable, caring relationship through those confusing and uncertain times is beyond measure."

-Stephen McCord, Active CASA #heartsofyolo

 

 

 "By all accounts I have had a privileged life. I had a stable home, loving parents, and a  carefree youth.  However, my family did have a deep history of struggle and because of  that I always identified with those who had to fight to survive.  My wife and I both share a  commitment to our community and wanted to do something both meaningful and  impactful.  Enter Yolo CASA.  Working with foster youth makes you realize the true  definition of strength and courage, and what it really takes to overcome obstacles.  The  youth that I have interacted with are some of the most caring, intelligent, loving, and  resilient people I have ever met.  And I can say without a doubt that my life has  been changed forever by this experience." 

-Ben Candranel, Active CASA #heartsofyolo

“Abused and lonely, abandoned and invisible are just a few of the feelings some foster children experience before having a CASA. Finally finding safety, knowing there is someone they can trust, the sense of belonging and that they truly matter to someone are feelings after having a CASA in their life. These chances to counteract the effects of trauma these children suffer are why I became a CASA in 1997. The healthy relationship a CASA volunteer develops with a foster child gives them a huge leg up to a better future. With a CASA by their side, daily life becomes better as the CASA advocates for their specific needs as well as insuring their placement is in a stable, long-term and loving family. I now serve as a board member, collaborating with other team members in the CASA organization, to help as many children as possible through our CASA programs.”

–Georgia Corbett, CASA Board Member #heartsofyolo

 

 “I grew up living near a family of foster children and I loved having so many children to  play with. I’ve always thought about foster parenting but with grandchildren of my own,  becoming a CASA was the perfect fit for me. The times I’ve spent with my foster child  have been some of the most fulfilling moments of my life.”

 -Pam Miramontes, Active CASA

 

 

 

 

"When my foster girl wrote these words to me, they were so special that it felt like they were etched in my heart. 'I am thankful for having you in my life. You have made a big impact on my life. You have been there for me since day one.' She told me 'the most important thing about having you as my CASA was knowing you would always be there every week. No one ever cared about my schoolwork like you did. I liked all the new opportunities to do things and your constant words of encouragement.'" -Jeannette Lejardi, Active CASA 

 

 

“As a former school principal, I noticed that some kids never had a parent who came to an after school event or parent teacher conference. This made it very clear to me that foster kids need CASAs. That’s when I joined the CASA Board of Directors.” –Ginni Davis, President, Yolo County CASA Board of Directors 

 

 

"I volunteer for many causes but I know that my work as a CASA makes an incredible difference. For example, I am a grandmother and I have come to realize that many foster children hardly know, or have never known what it is like to have a grandparent. When I leave knowing that I've been able to make my foster girl smile for an hour, my heart sings." -Karen Slinkard, Active CASA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One of the most memorable moments of my life was when I took my CASA child to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were driving toward the coast talking about this and that. She had never been to the beach before. As we headed west up and over a hill she looked out and pointed, "What is that!?!" She was pointing at the ocean. She had never seen it before and was amazed that it seemed to go on forever and that it looked like it did in the movies. She couldn't believe it was actually real. The rest of the day was just as magical. She said it was 'Finding Nemo' in real life. With our own children we take seeing the ocean, going to Disneyland, camping, and birthday parties for granted. For many foster children, these are things they only hear about or see on television.” –Lori Ross, Active CASA

 

"There is no greater joy than helping another person through this life." Sally Moore, Active CASA

 

 

 

"I am a credentialed teacher and my past experience is teaching kindergarten. I now stay home with my two children, but I miss being able to touch young lives and make a difference in the community. I considered doing CASA for a couple of years before I finally took the plunge. I absolutely loved the CASA training classes and they were so informative and eye-opening. Choosing my CASA child at the end of the training was both frightening and exciting. I have been with my child for almost two years now and her enthusiasm and appreciation for everything is beyond words. A simple gift or a trip out to dinner makes her so happy. She is endlessly thankful and so loving. This poor girl has been through so much in her young life, but she has such love for others in her heart. One fun memory with her was going to paint ceramics at a local store. She took such time and put so much love into painting her little dolphin, which we left at the store for them to glaze. On my next visit, I brought her the dolphin, all glazed and shiny, and she took such pride in her completed project. It's the little things that make time with my CASA child so special and memorable." –Michelle Raj, Active CASA

"My mom was a foster child and has taken in several foster children as part of our family. Through my mother's stories and my experience with foster siblings, I know that they are just like me, but in different circumstances and deserve to be treated just as special as any child. Most of the time, my foster siblings show up with little or no personal belongings and I want them to have something to call their own. I raised money through a nonprofit, 'Together We Rise' to purchase bags with teddy bears, blankets, coloring books, crayons, and toothbrushes to give to twenty-five foster children nearby. A friend at my local church who sells Avon products wanted to donate and let me choose deodorant, shower gel, nail files, lip balm and body spray so that I could add them to the bags because foster children, especially teens, often do not have personal care products of their own. I love making both my foster siblings and as many foster children as possible feel special. I can't believe how appreciative they are of things that I consider a normal part of being a kid but it's why I work so hard to raise money and get donations. Everyone deserves to feel special."

–Hannah Hemsley, biological daughter of a local foster parent with her adopted brother"

"Four years ago my husband Gary and I, along with our two daughters became a foster family. We had discussed foster parenting prior to marriage as something we would be willing to consider as part of building our family. As a teenager, I, myself came into care after several years of sexual abuse at the hands of my mother's boyfriend and I wanted to do for other kids what had been done for me.

After my initial placement into care, a family whom I had known for a few years stepped forward and prepared their home so that I could come to live with them and they made all the difference. They showed me an example of what a two parent family looked like with lots of siblings. While of course they weren't perfect they did provide me with a sense of safety and security that began my journey to healing.

Many of the experiences and life lessons I enjoyed during that time have stayed with me throughout the years. As the saying goes..."You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent. Thousands of kids in foster care will take you just as you are!" We, too, are far from perfect parents but we have fostered nine children, adopted two,and have two birth children. If we can do it, so can you!"

–Renee Hemsley, Local Foster Parent and mother of Hannah Hemsley 

 

“When I first learned of CASA, I was intrigued but intimidated. Comfortable with the advocacy side of being a CASA, I was intimidated by the thought of being matched with a teenage girl; after all, back in the day I was one.

Fears are exactly where the Yolo County CASA staff come in. Not only do they provide training, but they are a phone call away for any issue that emerges--whether it is related to writing a report or a relational issue with your CASA match.

In my case, I found my fears to be groundless. The girl with whom I was matched was delightful and happy just to have someone in her life that wanted to spend time with her. She had four social workers and five placements, yet through it all she had one CASA -- me. I'm so glad I didn't listen to my fears.”

--Janet Fulton, Active CASA

 

 

 

I really enjoyed exposing my teenage CASA match to new things and teaching her life skills. We did things together like geocaching, going for coffee or yogurt, going to the dog park, or, on special occasions, attending a performance or going out to eat as a backdrop to our relationship.

I taught her how to read a bus schedule and rode her route with her for the first time so she wouldn't be intimidated by public transportation. I helped her open her first checking and savings accounts and taught her how to use an ATM. When I learned of her love of singing, I developed an application to the Yolo County Children's Fund -- including a video of her singing -- to request funds for singing lessons.

It's so satisfying to know that you've done your best to help a child or youth who needs support. I hope to be associated with CASA for many more years.

-Janet Fulton, Active CASA

 

“We operate by the mission ‘to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans lovingly created by volunteer blanketeers,’ and this is what drove us to reach out to Yolo County CASA. Foster children have very few belongings of their own and we wanted to provide quilts that each child could have forever, wherever life took them.”

–Diane McGee, Chapter Coordinator, Project Linus, Yolo County

 

 

“Don’t they pay you to spend time with me?” This was a question that my nine-year-old CASA child asked me during one of our first outings. We were just getting to know each other and, already sophisticated in the ways of the “system,” she needed to know whether I was yet another transient professional in her life. Fortunately, my role as a CASA volunteer allowed me to reassure her that I was not being paid for my time and that I would be a permanent fixture in her life.

My experience as a CASA was so powerful that it inspired me to go to law school and advocate for children as an attorney, but I continue to believe that there is something special about that volunteer role. It naturally recruits people who are driven by their hearts to be present for children in a consistent and transparent way. In my current career, I see how this dedication from the heart builds immense trust and ultimately improves the advocacy that these children so desperately need.”

-Diana Glick, Former CASA and children’s rights attorney

 

 

 

 

“I became a CASA nearly two years ago, because I was inspired by an incredible young lady who was a foster child and in the CASA program (pictured at right). This young lady was determined, smart and certainly ambitious and I saw the ways she benefited from having a CASA. She was not going to let her situation define who she was or who she could become. I wanted to help others in similar situations.

Though my childhood was extraordinary by comparison to those in the foster care system, I knew I had compassion and understanding to make an impact and perhaps make a difference. The time I have shared with foster kids has not only been positive but life changing.” 

-Martha Clark-Garrison, Active CASA (pictured with Klarissa who is now a young adult working toward her bachelor's degree)

“I was welcomed into this world by loving parents, who may not have given me everything I wanted but have always given me what I needed. They afforded me great opportunities for which I am very grateful. Our foster youth are not as fortunate. I want them to have the same opportunities I had growing up, and I believe a caring adult and mentor can make a difference and ensure our foster children’s voices are heard and their needs are met. Not only am I inspired by our dedicated board members, our wonderful Executive Director, and great staff and volunteers, I am inspired by our mission to recruit and train volunteers from the community to advocate for abused and neglected children in the foster system, arguably one of the most vulnerable populations.” 

-Vickie Rafter, Board Treasurer, Yolo County CASA

 

 

"My inspiration to become a CASA stems from the fact that I came from a troubled (alcoholic) family where there was no sane adult to come alongside me and model some normalcy in my life. The newspaper article recruiting volunteers struck a resounding chord with me since I had been looking for a way in which to serve underprivileged children in our community."

-Karen Selby, Active CASA

 

 

 

"Becoming a parent spurred me to think more about how some kids are born into a wealth of support and others are not; I had thought about this before becoming a parent, but post, it hit me viscerally. Serving on the Yolo County CASA Board of Directors is a step I've taken toward serving the greater community of children in need.

In the future, I plan to become a CASA. CASAs are amazing-- they are a steady presence in the lives of children who need consistency most; they are listeners for children who don't always have listeners around; they are the voice of the child at court, championing for the best home for their child.”

-Moyra Barsotti, Board Member, Yolo County CASA

 

 

 

"We support Yolo County CASA because we believe every child should have a strong supporter and a safe home. CASAs do an amazing job of advocating for these basic needs of foster children, enabling them to grow and succeed, despite incredible adversity." -John Martin and Rafael Galiano, Owners, Park Winters

 

 

 

“I met my CASA child for coffee the other day. She remembered that we had met there before, about four years ago. She had been moved a lot and was about to be moved again. Her social worker had asked her what was important to her in a placement. We had sat in that same coffee shop while she listed every placement she had and what she liked or didn’t like about each one. Then we narrowed down to the three things that mattered most to her, so she could share them with her social worker.”

-Maggie Sanger, Active CASA

 

 

 

“The day I met my first CASA child she was so young. I’ll never forget when I took her to fly a kite for the first time. She lost her grip and it flew away. We ran chasing it across the field until it got stuck in a structure. She was frightened and inconsolable. When I shrugged it off she said, “You don’t understand! It’s my fault. I let go on purpose!” When asked why she said through her tears, “I wanted to see what would happen.” I laughed and said, “Well, now you know!” Through our interactions we can model healthy behavior and help foster children to not fear an adult’s response and to learn how to trust.

Through our years together, there have been some very difficult times, some hard choices and a lot of abandonment. Now, she is graduating and getting ready to head out into the world as a young adult. I have been privileged to walk alongside this young girl through very hard times and watch her grow into a beautiful, amazing young adult. It has been an incredible blessing to be able to share in her journey, through braces and boyfriends. I could not be more proud of her if she were my own.”

-Maggie Sanger, Active CASA

"There is one memory I have of the little girl I was a CASA for that stands out that I will never forget. Her foster mother asked me to drop her off at the camp she was attending during the summer after our breakfast outing. We had fun chatting and talking about the books she read that we had checked out from the library and how things were going for her. As I walked her up to her camp, I gave her a hug, told her to have fun, and I would see her next week. She ran off as excited as most kids do, but as I was getting in my car, she stopped, turned around and said, “I love you.” I was just so surprised and paused because it was her first time in expressing any emotion toward me. Then I told her I loved her too. That moment I knew that she knew I how much cared.

Once my case ended, my continued involvement on the board has been to help raise funds and spread the word to increase our CASA numbers so more children can be served and have that special relationship with a someone who truly cares and will advocate for what is best for them."

-Georgia Corbett, Board Member 

 

 

“I taught in special education my entire career and had countless opportunities to see a diverse range of personalities and ability levels. I learned so many lessons about children but the most salient is that when you show children love and believe in them, incredible things happen. It is amazing the impact that caring about a child has on his or her life. I pledged to make a donation to Yolo County CASA on the Big Day of Giving because I know that the love and consistency CASAs provide to children are crucial to their well-being and development.”

-Pat Fauver, Supporter of Yolo County CASA and mother of our Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

"I first became acquainted with Yolo County CASA when I planned a golf tournament through work and was in search of a nonprofit beneficiary. From there, the rest is history. I found myself fundraising and advocating for Yolo County CASA well beyond the golf tournament. I was asked to be on the Board of Directors in 2013 and despite a move to San Francisco, I remain in my board position because I care so deeply about what we do for children who need it most." 

-Alison White, Board Member, Yolo County CASA

 

 

 

 

“I was adopted as an infant, and over the years I've become more aware of how lucky I was to be adopted into a wonderful family with incredible support. Many other children are put into vulnerable situations, and often don't have the support and resources I received.

Children in the foster system are some of our most vulnerable kids in a moment of family crisis through no fault of their own. In 2012 I became a CASA in Houston, Texas, in order to make a difference in the life of a child during this moment of crisis. When my husband and I moved to Yolo County this past summer, I knew I wanted to go through CASA training here, to learn more about the need in our community and to become a CASA again.

As a CASA, I have the privilege of being a dependable friend, regardless of any other chaos in these kids' lives. I see the impact that I can have on one child's life, and am so proud to be a part of the work that Yolo County CASA does on behalf of these kids! "

–Holly Wong, Active CASA

 

 

 

“We were introduced to Yolo County CASA years ago by dear friends of ours. What struck me then, and continues to hold true, is the integrity of the Board of Directors and CASA staff. We are philanthropists and whenever we look into donating to a cause, we research how many of those dollars will go to administration vs. programs. I can tell you without a doubt that the dollars we give to Yolo County CASA primarily go to providing CASAs to the foster children it serves—children who through no fault of their own have been abused or neglected and as a result, are living lives full of uncertainty and fear.

We sleep better at night knowing that Yolo County CASA is doing everything it can to provide CASAs for these children so that they have a sense of stability and love. We’ve remained supporters of this organization for many years because we know that each time we donate, our dollars will go directly to that and we marvel at the selfless board and staff who consistently volunteer their time and money to support this culture.” 


–Susan and Reed Youmans, Philanthropists and CASA supporters

 

“I work for Yolo County CASA as an Advocate Supervisor and I am also a CASA volunteer myself. I love being a CASA volunteer because I have the privilege of coming into contact with phenomenal kids. I especially love working with young adults in the teen/transitional years… they are exceptionally funny and bright and have the most interesting views on life.

In my role as an Advocate Supervisor, I am also privileged because I get to meet some of the greatest people in the world. Each day I come to work and hear incredible stories about the lengths our CASA volunteers went to in order to help their foster children with various situations and happenings.

When I step back and think about it, it’s a bit ironic that so much happiness can be found through working with children who have been abused or neglected in some way, but between their incredible personalities, and the selflessness of the people who help them, it never ceases to amaze me. In a world that can sometimes seem full of sad events and conflicts, Yolo County CASA is a shining example of all the good things.” 

-Karen Resecker-Boyd, CASA Volunteer and Advocate Supervisor

 

“My service on the board of Yolo CASA gives me great joy. I’m inspired by the CASA mission and by our advocates who make an incredible difference in the lives of our CASA kids-- giving voice to the most vulnerable in our community. I’m inspired by the children who face a deck that somehow got stacked against them, but who-- with mentoring and support-- find happiness and their own place in the world, and then reach back to hold out a helping hand to others who find themselves in the same difficult place. And I’m inspired by my colleagues on the board who selflessly give their time, talent and treasure so that Yolo CASA will always be there for those who need it. I am blessed to be one small part of this very remarkable endeavor.” 

–Susan Lovenburg, Board Member, Yolo County CASA

 

“Yolo County CASA makes a huge difference for foster children in our community. Research shows that foster children with CASAs spend less time in court and are less likely to need long-term foster care. Perhaps most compelling is that foster children with CASAs are more likely to pass all of their courses in school, display controls against deviant behavior, work well with others, work out conflicts better, value achievement, and are more interested in their communities as adults.

Knowing this, I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t give my time and financial resources to Yolo County CASA. The way I see it, I pay now so that an innocent child doesn’t have to pay later. I’ve repeatedly seen CASAs level the playing field between foster children and children who have a safety net of a consistent family structure in my work as teacher, a school principal, and through my continued work with CASA.

As long as I am able, I will continue to champion for the training and support of CASAs so that more foster children have a fair chance at leading the kind of lives, both as children and adults, that the support of a caring, trained adult can provide to them.”

–Ginni Davis, Board President, Yolo County CASA

 

“I am honored to have been involved with Yolo CASA since 2000. During that time, I’ve seen our community generously step up to help support the work CASA does to ensure that the children of our community who cannot live safely at home have a compassionate adult to fight for and protect our most vulnerable citizens’ right to be safe. It makes me proud.

Our CASA volunteers are the heart of our organization and the one constant in that child’s life. With their unwavering support, they provide a voice for their child as well as adult guidance in navigating a scary and uncertain world.

Our CASA staff does essential work to sustain our program. Through their training and supervision of our volunteers, as well as support for them when they encounter what can often be difficult situations, they ensure that our volunteers have the resources necessary to be an effective CASA… and often volunteer their own time to make sure everything gets done.

Our executive director’s passion, dedication, leadership, collaboration with key community organizations, and her ability to “make things happen” are key to us reaching our goal of providing every foster child with a CASA in Yolo County.

Our board of directors, of which I am a member, is a very dedicated group of community members from around Yolo County, who consistently answer the call to contribute their talents and passion to ensure that Yolo CASA will be there for the children who need our services.

Thank you to the many “hearts” of Yolo County.

I am for the child…WE are for the child... join us.”

-Mary Patricia Whelan-Miille, Vice President, Yolo County CASA Board of Directors

 

“I became a CASA volunteer after five years of living overseas left me wanting a closer connection to my new local community. As the mother of a young child, my motivation for volunteering was initially to contribute something to another child's life.

What sustains me now, some six years on is no longer based on illusions of what I might contribute. Rather, as all volunteers eventually come to learn, the CASA experience is one that turns the tables on the volunteers to make them recipients; recipients of humbling learning experiences, of constant inspiration, of tremendous admiration for the children whose lives we observe over months and years.

In short, my life has been enriched by being part of a child's life as she learns and grows. Whatever hopes I may have once harbored about playing the hero in another's life have been subverted by the dawning recognition that my CASA child is MY hero, who inspires me through her growth, her challenges, and her life.”

-Barbara Miltner, Active CASA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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