It is important to reflect on the work we are doing as CASA volunteers and how we are impacting the lives of children and families through our advocacy. This is especially important as we consider the historical and present trauma inflicted on the Black community by systemic racism and violence.
Volunteering as a CASA is an inherently privileged role – we have the time and means to dedicate to this role and we come with our own experiences, ideas, and biases of what it means to be “in the system” and what it means to help. We also are aware that in many circumstances, our volunteers are white people working with children of color.
In our work, showing up and being consistent is critical. We also must strive to be allies to Black children and families and be held accountable for dismantling racism in the child welfare system. CASA volunteers can make a difference by ensuring that their youth is receiving fair and equal treatment.
Here are Five Ways to Do This In Your Everyday Advocacy Work:
- Listen – Listen to your young person if they choose to share their experiences and needs. Sit with those experiences without judgment or inserting your thoughts/opinions into the conversation. Know that you might face hesitation or backlash and it’s your role to sit with that, be patient, and not force a conversation.
- Amplify – Young people do have voices and can express their own needs. They do not need us to speak for them. CASAs can make space and empower (encourage?) their young people to speak up at child and family team meetings, with schools, with caregivers, and at court. Encourage young people who are of age to register and vote in upcoming elections.
- Do the Work – Learn about systemic racism in our communities and in the child welfare system. Continue to educate yourself on what it means to be anti-racist. Recognize that asking questions to BIPOC in your circle (including the children/youth you advocate for) is not their responsibility and subjects them to additional emotional labor. Instead research this information on your own, or ask a CASA staff member for resources that could help you learn more.
Actively consider how you might experience the child welfare system if you were not in this position of privilege. Know and explore your biases and how they may be reflected through microaggressions– both implicitly and explicitly – these could be with regard to families, mental health, poverty, housing, and child abuse and challenge yourself to know how those biases are impacting your advocacy work, as well as the court, reports you write. Know that you will make mistakes in this work and that those mistakes are not a reason to stop doing the work.
Being an ally, is not a ‘destination’, but an ongoing process of understanding your privileges, holding yourself accountable when making mistakes and being open/doing the research on your own to learn and prevent them in the future.
- Don’t be a Bystander – Challenge insensitive and racist comments coming from a member of your youth’s team or even from the youth themselves. Model language that reflects CASA/LA’s core values of deep love, justice, and respect. When decisions about your youth’s care and future are made, stop to consider what biases might be at play. Speak up if decisions are being influenced by biases. You are your youth’s advocate. How can you step up and change the narrative to focus on the young person’s experiences and needs?
- Support families – Reunification is in the best interest of children and families. How can your advocacy support families stay together? If family reunification is not possible, how can we ensure that young people have continued connections with siblings, extended family members, or non-relative supports in their community?
Resources for Learning More:
Personal Anti-Racism Work:
- Showing Up for Racial Justice
- Racial Equity Tools
- Anti-racism reading list from Skylight Books
- Here’s what a white savior is (and why it’s the opposite of helpful) (video)
- 10 Ways I Have Perpetuated Anti-Blackness as a Non-Black POC (and How I Intend to Do Better)
- The Urgency of Intersectionality (video)
- Talking about Race
- Being Anti-Racist
- What it means to be anti-racist
Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice:
- Race and Poverty Bias in Child Welfare
- Race and Class in the Child Welfare System
- Black Families Matter, How the Child Welfare System Punishes Poor Families of Color
- Disproportionality in Child Welfare
- Parents Fight for Daughter after ‘Pervasive and Egregious’ Violations by Family Court Volunteers
- Center for Juvenile Justice Reform: Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities
- A Letter to Black Foster Youth by Sade Daniels
Resources for Children & Youth:
- Talking to children after racial incidents
- Talking to kids about race
- How to talk to your children about protests and racism
- A kids book about racism
- Standing up against Racism, a CNN/Sesame Street Townhall (Video)
- Teaching Children About Race by Dr. Wanjiku Njjoroge (Video)
- A resource of books that are centered around race, equity, and inclusion
- Resources to support Children’s Emotional Well-Being Amid Anti-Black Racism, Racial Violence and Trauma
- The Traumatic Impact of Racism and Discrimination on Young People and How to Talk About It
- Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five
Resources for Mentoring Black Youth:
Registering Your Youth to Vote
- If youth are 18 or older on Election Day, they are eligible to vote.
- In California, youth who are 16 or 17 can pre-register to vote, meaning they will automatically be registered when they turn 18.
CASAs can play an important part in ensuring your young person as a voice in upcoming elections. As a CASA, you can encourage your young person to register to vote and help them find non-partisan information about elections, candidates, and issues. While you can encourage research and dialogue, you cannot tell your young person how to vote or which party to register with.
Resources for Community Engagement:
If you are interested in engaging in this fight beyond your CASA work, here are some additional resources for getting involved:
- Find out who represents you and vote!
- Stay informed about issues that matter to you; sign petitions and write letters that align with your values and views on issues.
Your CASA work and greater :
When contacting your representative or engaging in community advocacy, you may identify yourself as a CASA volunteer, but not connect your personal political opinions with that of CASA of Los Angeles or speak on behalf of the organization. As a non-profit, CASA cannot engage in certain political advocacy activities, such as advocating for a particular candidate or political party. This includes encouraging your youth to vote for a particular candidate or political party. In some situations, CASA/LA partners with other community agencies to support legislation or policy changes that impact our children, youth, and the overall child welfare system. CASA/LA will notify you if there are opportunities to advocate for these efforts.
Advocacy Orgs: Child Welfare & Community
- Alliance for Children’s Rights
- California Youth Connection
- John Burton Advocates for Youth
- National Center for Youth Law
- Children’s Defense Fund
- Children Now
- Community Coalition
Advocacy Orgs: Racial Justice – There are many organizations locally and nationally doing the work to support BIPOC. We encourage you to check-out these resources guides and learn more about organizations that support racial justice: