Organization Estimates 12,000 Children Currently in Urgent Need of a CASA Volun-teer, with An Expected Increase Post-COVID
Los Angeles, CA, August 20, 2021 — For over 40 years, CASA/LA has been the only organization in Los Angeles County providing court-appointed advocates to youth in foster care, helping these children navigate the trials of the courtroom, and also the trials of a challenged childhood. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting closure of schools, courts, and service agencies this year has heightened the already critical need for CASA advocacy in the lives of Los Angeles County’s 30,000-plus children and youth in foster care. The organization’s “Three to 3,000” campaign aims to raise the approximately additional $3 Million in revenue required for volunteer training and support to serve 3,000 children by 2024.
“CASA/LA has been steadily expanding our volunteer base and children served, actually accelerating both during the pandemic,” said CASA/LA CEO Charity Chandler-Cole. “However, we also expect a rise in the numbers of children entering the child welfare system as kids return to classes, see doctors and other reporters of abuse or neglect. The Three to 3,000 campaign is giving us a running start in helping to address one of Los Angeles County’s most dire and heartbreaking challenges.”
Generally, as a child’s length of time in foster care increases, the probability of negative outcomes also increases. Forty to 50% of youth in foster care in California experience homelessness within 18 months of aging out of the system, and 50% of emancipated youth experience high rates of unemployment within 5 years of aging out. Within California’s prison system, 28% of inmates have spent time in foster care. Since 2017, CASA/LA has been actively implementing anti-racism initiatives internally and pushing externally for racial equity in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and has recently expanded on these efforts.
CASA/LA’s overarching goal is to scale operations, and programmatic strategies by 2032 in order to reach all 12,000 youth in immediate need of a CASA/LA volunteer in the next ten years. The Three to 3,000 Campaign is the first leg of this strategy to make a true impact on the state of foster care in LA County, and will push forward the following existing initiatives:
EARLY CHILDHOOD INITIATIVE: This initiative advances CASA/LAs commitment to help children ages 0-5. In LA County, 35% of the children entering foster care are ages 0-5 with 19% under 24 months. As the developmental needs of the child are recognized earlier, interventions happen sooner, and children achieve permanency quicker and more successfully.
JUVENILE JUSTICE: CASA volunteers are more frequently having to advocate for youth in delinquency court since it is not uncommon for youth in foster care to come into contact with the juvenile justice system. CASA volunteers support young people at juvenile justice court hearings and ensure they have all the needed services to spend the least amount of time in the juvenile justice system.
DIVERSION PROGRAM: As part of this initiative, CASA/LAs Diversion Program ensures that young people in foster care have the ability to participate in diversion programming to avoid the juvenile justice system all together. Youth in the dependency system have often been lim-ited in their ability to participate in diversion programs due to the lack of a stable adult who can monitor their participation. CASA volunteers will support these young people by overseeing their diversion programs and collaborating with the youths team to ensure all services are in place and their needs are being met.
ESSENTIAL HISTORY PROGRAM: The Essential History program aims to help social workers, attorneys and judges make trauma-informed decisions about the young people they serve by providing them with a summary of the young persons experiences and history in critical areas of life. Through this program, volunteers complete a detailed review of a childs file and write a report outlining the childs developmental, medical, and mental health history to ensure critical details are not overlooked by the various stakeholders in the childs case.
CASA/LA serves youth in the child welfare system who have experienced abuse and neglect by connecting them with a trained volunteer who works one-on-one with these vulnerable children to support them through the judicial process, and in all areas of their lives. In FY2020, CASA/LA served 1,294 children, an increase of 5% from FY2019 and 15% from FY2018 and continues to increase despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (CASA/LA swore in 230 new volunteers between July 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021.) The number of new volunteers recruited in September 2020 was more than double the number recruited in September 2019 as the organization quickly pivoted its recruitment, training, and advocacy online.
Since the onset of COVID-19, CASA/LA has employed new strategies to recruit and train volunteers remotely, and to advocate for youth while they are out of sight of their teachers, therapists, and the court. Volunteers have been crucial during this pandemic, supporting their youth in creative and unexpected ways. They have secured laptops for youth, helped them find safe living placements, kept spirits up over Zoom, helped them cope with fear and isolation during the “safer-at-home” orders, as well as remained a caring adult they could count on as a stable presence.
For more information about the life-impacting services CASA/LA volunteers provide or to support the Three to 3,000 Campaign visit casala.org or email Marie Carpenter at MCarpenfirstname.lastname@example.org.
CASA of Los Angeles (www.casala.org) is a community-supported 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of dedicated staff and volunteers working one-on-one with children in LA County’s child welfare system who have experienced abuse or neglect. The youth served by CASA/LA come from historically underserved populations that have experienced the extraordinary consequences of racial disparities and structural inequality that lead to poverty, neglect and abuse. CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, work with a child in foster care to form a trusting relationship, giving that child a stable adult or someone who cares who can advocate for their best interest. CASA volunteers help children in important ways such as comforting them through emotional trauma and transition, arranging for needed healthcare, social services or enrichment activities, talking with teachers to ensure educational services are in place and reporting to the children’s court and judges by attending court hearings and advocating for the childs welfare. CASA/LA is among the largest of regional programs in a national and state-wide volunteer network serving children in foster care. Studies have shown that children with CASA volunteers receive more assistance and support than children without, and are more likely to be adopted or returned to their families and less likely to reenter the child welfare system. For more information, please visit the CASA of Los Angeles website: https://www.casala.org.