(September 6, 2016)

Dear CASA/LA Community,

As we close the books on a banner sixth year of CASA/LA as a fully non-profit endeavor providing court appointed volunteer advocacy for vulnerable children in foster care, we stop to take stock and reflect on all we have accomplished with your help. Volunteerism is at the heart of all the advocacy and support we provide to these most vulnerable young people in our community, thanks to the generous donations of time and talent from all of you.


1. Higher public awareness than ever before about CASA and its child advocacy mission in this past fiscal year generated over 3,000 inquiries from people interested in volunteering as advocates.
Intensified community outreach efforts led by our much larger recruitment team –Camrin, Jeremy, Amapola and Lauren – assisted by a dedicated group of volunteers, held 139 info sessions for 1198 attendees, resulting in 462 new applications. An expanded volunteer services team – Lynne, Emily, Jasmine and Jesse — increased activity significantly, with the help of volunteers interviewing 398 applicants with the help of volunteers, handling 363 security clearances, and holding 15 pre-service classes at a variety of times and community locations for 272 total trainees, all leading to the graduation of 200 new volunteer advocates!

2. A stronger infrastructure is now supporting CASA/LA advocacy work, building capacity to support an expanding pipeline of volunteers and donors.

People: Staff, Volunteers, Board
Guided and supported by a highly engaged board of 29 directors our staff has grown to 30 dedicated team members. We have 12 Senior Program Coordinators – Adriana, Aimee, Carolyn, Caryn, Eleni, Kendra, Lauren, Lauri, Linda, Maegan, Rosa and Takira under Sylvia’s leadership in MP, with Paul and Tammy under Lesley’s leadership in AV — each supporting about 50 advocates. This past year 559 active advocates served 811 children with long-term advocacy, and 25 children’s court assistants served over 4,000 children more in Shelter Care. Volunteer and staff efforts in FY16 enabled us to serve a total of 4,934 children and youth!

Systems, Process and Protocols
Together we implemented a new electronic advocacy management system, Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) that is now the nerve center for CASA operations, enabling us to understand in real time the impact of our work. The introduction of this system led by deputy director Sylvia  — with staff teams in recruitment, training, and advocacy along with much volunteer input and participation — went hand in hand with the roll out of new protocols for advocacy management and volunteer engagement. While implementation has been challenging, CASA staff and volunteers have stepped up admirably to the challenge as we continue forward on this path towards more data informed program management and the ability to provide ourselves and donors with a higher level of accountability than ever before. This is critical for future support as we continue building a more robust CASA program for the children of Los Angeles.

ETO joins several new software systems implemented over the past two years in accounting, human resources, program and development – all helping us bring CASA operations into more effective and efficient functioning. One good example of optimal use of donor investment dollars is the disciplined expense management under the leadership of our finance & administration director Bob and his team of Kerry and Mary that allowed us to halve the previous year’s deficit. Another example is continuous improvement in program quality control and data management being delivered by new data manager Jessica and quality control manager Michelle. Program assistant Alex helps manage a tight wait list with children currently averaging only a 2-month wait for an advocate.

3. Best fundraising year yet!
Our now in-house development team – Kristen, Marie, Gaby, Tara and Simone — under the leadership of director Dan has made great strides in increasing and diversifying our fundraising efforts. In one year we have upped our game, attracting many new donors while deepening relationships with long-time benefactors. Foundation support has continued strong alongside a very successful board driven annual gala and other smaller events, as we focused on strengthening individual giving. This strategy helped us raise $3.8M, our highest annual gift level ever!

4. Volunteer Engagement at an all-time High!
In addition to the important roles of advocate, peer coordinator and children’s court assistants – volunteers participate actively in outreach activities, leading jury presentations, making phone calls to prospective volunteers, interviewing applicants, speaking at trainings, helping in the office with a variety of projects, serving on event committees, and as board directors. More and more volunteers are pledging financial support and helping attract other donors to join the CASA cause. Volunteers are highly involved in how we do everything at CASA and high engagement helps us offer the best possible volunteer experience…with continuing dialogue, always a work in progress!

In the new fiscal year we plan on expanding opportunities for volunteer-staff dialogue with Quarterly Volunteer Forums to be held once or twice a year at the CASA offices and another two-three times a year at locations in the community. Dates will be announced in the Buzz and the next round of gatherings will be timed to the arrival of our new CEO. We hope to see you there!


The new Annual Plan for FY2017 is Year One of our Six-Year Strategic Plan and was approved at the June 13 board meeting. In the year ahead with your help we aim to raise $4.4M in support, activate 740 volunteers, and serve 1100 children with CASA advocates. In addition we plan to serve another 5,000 children and youth with Day in Court service by our volunteer Children’s Court Assistants (CCAs).

How can you support?

Join our Community Breakfast on September 15! Our development and communications director Dan Hanley organized this new event to introduce CASA to prospective donors, volunteers and supporters. It will take place at the LA City Club and people are invited to be table captains and fill their table with people new to CASA and its work with vulnerable children in foster care. A generous donor is underwriting this complimentary breakfast. For more details contact Dan or our events manager Tara Grand at tgrand@casala.org

Attend the We are LA Family Festival on Saturday, September 17, produced by our board chair Lou Lucido, to benefit several children’s charities in Los Angeles, among them CASA/LA. For tickets and more details please go to https://casala.org/we-are-la-family-music-festival/ or contact Charissa@weareLA.org

Join us for Justice Jog on Sunday, September 25 in Century City! Bring a team and/or fundraise for CASA online by getting your friends to support your run/jog/walk that day. Proceeds from this event benefit CASA/LA thanks to the generosity of our generous partners at the Greater Los Angeles Association of Legal Administrators, who raise over $100,000 annually for our kids with their event. For more information contact tgrand@casala.org and to register online go to https://casala.org/justicejog/

Introduce us to artists and wine purveyors in your circle and help us take our 3rd Annual CASA Wine + Art event on February 25, 2017 to new heights. They will support CASA in an event partnership that Saturday night to attract 1000 people to WerkArtz, a dynamic art space in downtown LA. For more information please contact tgrand@casala.org and visit https://casala.org/wine/


Board officers were elected at the board’s June 13 annual meeting. After 3 years of dedicated service, Jim Rishwain stepped down as board chair and Louis Lucido was elected new board chair effective July 1. Also elected were vice chair Steve Carlston, treasurer Ed Nahmias, and secretary Lori Kozak. Additionally serving on the board executive committee in an at-large capacity are Jean Youngquist, and now Jim Rishwain as chair emeritus. A total of 29 directors currently serve on the CASA/LA board, 6 of them current or former CASAs themselves and the balance a mix of business, philanthropic and civic leaders.

In preparation for my retirement later this fall, the CEO Search Committee composed of board members Lori Kozak, Bruce Herron, Jean Youngquist and Ed Nahmias are interviewing finalists from a pool of candidates vetted over the summer by our search consultants at Morris & Berger. Further interviews will occur in early September and a selection announcement is anticipated late September or early October. My departure will follow the arrival and orientation of our new leader and we will share those dates once they are set. It has been an honor to serve the CASA community in a leadership role and I look forward to welcoming and supporting the new CEO.


Each and every one of you contributes in so many ways to the results, plans and news reported in this letter and to so much more. On behalf of the children and families who benefit from your enduring support, we offer the deepest thanks.

Please join us, let us hear your suggestions and ideas, and together let us begin another banner year for CASA child advocacy in Los Angeles!

In gratitude and admiration,

Dilys Tosteson Garcia
Executive Director