Anderson Children's Foundation

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) (2020-2021, 2019-2020, 2017-2018)

Voices for Children’s (VFC) Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program serves one of the most vulnerable populations in Coachella Valley: abused children. Every child should live free from harm, but an estimated 5,000 Riverside County children spend time in foster care each year after being abused or neglected by the people responsible for their care—their families. While local foster care is made up of many dedicated professionals, there aren't enough resources to give every Coachella Valley child the individual care they need and deserve.

Well-intentioned, but overburdened social workers and attorneys depend on CASAs for their individual knowledge of children and their needs. CASAs gain this knowledge by spending precious one-on-one time at least once per month with the children for whom they advocate. Because CASAs are matched with a single child or sibling group, they provide a level of individual advocacy that is unparalleled by other organizations that serve foster youth. As the only agency designated by the Court in Riverside County to provide CASA volunteers, if a child from Coachella Valley will have access to the unique advocacy and support only a CASA can provide, that CASA must come from VFC.

VFC recruits, trains, and supports community members to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASAs. As Officers of the Court, CASAs have access to medical and educational records for the children they serve which allow them to gain an in-depth understanding of the educational, mental and physical health, and placement needs of the youth; monitor their access to services; and advocate on their behalf in Court and in the community. They speak with all of the key stakeholders in a child’s life, including biological family members, caregivers, therapists, and teachers. Most importantly, they get to know foster youth as individuals by understanding their strengths, personality, and goals for the future. When they identify unmet needs, CASAs alert a child’s social worker, attorney, and judge, and advocate for solutions.

CASAs have requested key developmental screenings, accompanied youth to medical appointments, attended school conferences, and alerted the Court when lapses in services have occurred. At critical junctures in the case, and twice a year at a minimum, they submit written reports to the Court, which judges use to make life-altering decisions. CASAs are supported by a team of full-time, professional staff members who provide them with ongoing training and guidance.

The role of the CASA has never been more critical. Children in foster care experience uncertainty in their lives, but our local communities and the world at large are experiencing a new kind of crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are reaching out to their CASAs for assurance and support now more than ever. This generous grant from Anderson Children’s Foundation will enable VFC to provide necessary services to Coachella Valley foster youth during the pandemic and in the months ahead.