SEPTEMBER 15 — OCTOBER 15

CASA of Los Angeles just closed our 2014 fiscal year and we have served more children with intensive advocacy than ever before. That’s a huge accomplishment that speaks to the dedication of our board members, our staff and the support of the community, and it puts us in a great position to hit our goal of serving 1,000 children in FY2015. In FY2014, CASA advocates made a difference in the lives of 840 foster children.

In the coming year, we have a lot of work to do to recruit the number of volunteers needed to make a profound impact on the lives of these 1,000 children. For example, we need more volunteers from diverse ethnicities that the children can better relate to culturally. We have a lot of babies placed in caregiving families that are monolingual Spanish, so we have a deep need for people with Spanish language skills. And we need more males to provide role models for young boys.

For more information about becoming a CASA volunteer, click here.

Click here to view a story from Univision 34.
Click here to read Telemundo 54’s coverage.
Click here to read CASA’s Hispanic Heritage Month’s press release.
Click here to read, in Spanish, news coverage from Univision.
Click here to read, in Spanish, news coverage from Televisa W Radio 690AM.
Click here for a profile of CASA advocate Jose Mesa in La Opinion.
Click here to read, in Spanish, news coverage from Fox News Latino.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, look for stories as we celebrate our Latino CASAs and staff!

Julian, Age 3

Julian, 3 years old, was appointed to CASA volunteer Vince Schodolski after he came to the court’s attention when a charge of neglect was made. When Vince first met Julian, he was living with both of his parents and could not stand or walk as he should at 18-months old. He could not even stand in his crib without help. Julian had been diagnosed with Global Developmental Delays that required immediate intervention services which were not followed up by his parents who consistently failed to take him to scheduled medical appointments and necessary Regional Center services.

His mother was not able to cope with the difficult situation and left the home to return to her parents. Vince worked closely with his father Jorge, who proved to be a responsible father. He followed all of the court’s instructions, attended regular parenting sessions focusing on children with special needs, participated in family play therapy with Julian, made sure that Julian had did not miss his weekly sessions from Regional Center and was able to have his son released from court supervision in just a year.

Jorge currently works in the same galvanizing plant where he started seven years ago and is on the job five or six days a week. While at work, he relies on his family as he has done from the start. “His aunt is taking care of him now. It’s better and less expensive,” Jorge said. Even though a daycare center was made available to him when Julian was under court supervision, he chose instead to rely on his family rather than outside help.

Nearly six months after young Julian’s involvement with CASA ended, he is doing well, has developed a strong and healthy attachment with his father Jorge and is benefiting from healthy relationships with his aunt, grandmother and a number of neighborhood children in his age group.

“CASA helped me understand what was going on,” Jorge said while his son played nearby in the apartment they share with Jorge’s sister. Julian’s mother sees him once or twice a month now. “He sees his grandmother more,” Jorge said. “We are happy and very content now.”

ROSA AREVALO

Prior to coming to CASA in October 2011, Rosa Arevalo had been interested in volunteering, but thought that her full-time-plus job would limit her ability to be a successful CASA volunteer, which is not necessarily the case. She also believed that working for an agency that ran a foster care program, as she was at that point, could represent a conflict of interest, so as soon as she left that job she began to apply to become a CASA volunteer advocate. Coincidently, CASA was looking for a person with Early Childhood background and bi-lingual skills (Spanish speaking) for a staff position. CASA was embarking on the Early Childhood Initiative to provide CASA volunteers, court and community stakeholders with the information and tools to advocate for the safety, permanency and well-being for young children in the dependency system as soon as possible. With her 25+ years active in the field of Early Childhood Education and Early Intervention and being fully bi-lingual, it was the perfect match! Rosa became both a CASA volunteer advocate and a CASA staff member at the same time!

Rosa’s knowledge of early childhood issues and her bilingual skills have come handy in a system where 48% of the children are Latino and a third of the children in the system are 5 years old or younger. She stresses the need to inform the bilingual Latino community of the necessity to come forward and to respond to the urgent demand for support and advocacy on behalf of the young children and their families involved in the dependency system.

Rosa has been on staff at CASA for 3 ½ years. During this time she has coached and provided support to approximately 80 CASAs that advocate for about 165 young children. A number of these children are now in forever homes either through successful reunification with their parents, having been adopted by grandparents or other family members, or being placed in loving non-relative adoptive homes.

She talks about the pain of witnessing the sad and lifeless expressions of some little ones that first come into the system due to neglect, abuse or abandonment and how those faces begin to light up as the adults around them respond to their needs for safety, love and permanency. CASAs have the opportunity to contribute with their time and dedication to ensure that those lifeless faces give way to hope and smiles.

JOSE MESA

Jose Mesa became a CASA in 2009. He speaks Spanish and his language skills have been essential in each of his cases. Jose met Sebastian* at 11 months old, after he was removed from his parents’ home because he tested positive for methamphetamine after birth. Sebastian’s uncle, Joe, was interested in adopting Sebastian. However, Joe spoke only Spanish and did not know how to start the process. Jose was assigned to this specific case due to his ability to speak Spanish and was able to get information about medical care and adoption for Joe. In August 2013, Sebastian was adopted by his Uncle Joe. In addition, Joe also adopted two other boys who were his brother’s children.

Jose met Ben* in 2013 a year after he was removed from his home by the L.A. Department of Children and Family Services due to severe neglect and drug use by both of his parents. Ben was placed in a foster home thirty miles away from his two sisters who are severely disabled. A short time after, Ben’s father passed away in questionable circumstances and their mother only visited a couple of times and was not interested in reunification with her children.

After Jose learned that Ben’s foster parents were not interested in adopting him, he advocated for Ben to be transferred, with a transition plan, to be with his sisters’ foster parents who were interested in adopting all three siblings. However, shortly after, Ben’s new foster parents stated that they could no longer care for Ben due to his extreme aggression and requested that he be removed from their home. With no other choice, Ben was immediately removed and was placed in the loving home of foster parents Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez,* who only speak Spanish.

In this home, Ben thrived. Jose continued to advocate for therapy, which helped Ben’s transition to his new home go well. With Jose’s help, Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez began the process to adopt Ben. It was also apparent that Ben held a close bond with Mr. Ramirez and needed a male figure in his life. Meanwhile, Ben’s great aunt came forward and expressed interest in adopting Ben which disrupted the process. Ben had moved to three different homes in one year and everyone in Ben’s life wanted to prevent another move that could cause Ben to regress. Through conversations with Jose, Ben’s great aunt realized she could cause more harm to Ben and decided that Ben would most likely succeed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez. The court allowed Ben to stay with his foster parents, and his great aunt was given visitation rights.

Ben, now a thriving sweet 4-year-old boy, will be adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez on Adoption Day in November.

With all of Jose’s cases, he was able to communicate with all parties because he speaks Spanish. He is amazed at how quickly the children were adopted. He now realizes “we need to recruit more Spanish speaking CASAs. I can provide this service because I am bilingual and I am a male.”

*names have been changed