There are nearly 3,000 youth in foster care in Sacramento County, the largest number in Northern California. County social workers and children’s attorneys carry massive caseloads, allowing them to spend only a few hours every six months with a youth, often leading to the community’s most at-risk kids receiving inadequate services.
That’s where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Sacramento steps in. Through a unique partnership, the juvenile court looks to CASA to provide additional services to youth who need it most. CASA does this through volunteers who work one-on-one with children by serving as mentors and court-appointed special advocates, a legal status which allows them to speak on their youth’s behalf in juvenile court.
“No experience is necessary to become a CASA,” said CASA Development Director Elizabeth Morabito. “We recruit and train everyday community members to be a voice for Sacramento’s most at-risk foster youth. Although we ask our CASAs for an 18-month commitment, the average is nearly three years and many voluntarily maintain a relationship with their youth for life.”
In 2016, CASAs contributed 15,000 hours of service to 264 youth and improved lives in countless ways, including:
• attending special education meetings to help their youth advance to the next grade level or graduate;
• empowering girls to recognize the dangers of and resist the pull of sex trafficking;
• preparing older youth for independent living so they succeed as adults instead of becoming homeless, jobless, addicted or incarcerated.
Since forming in 1991, CASA Sacramento has recruited, trained, supported and supervised 1,079 volunteer advocates who have provided more than 150,000 service hours to 2,361 youth in foster care. As the only Sacramento County volunteer organization empowering everyday citizens to become appointed members of the juvenile court, CASA leverages volunteer contributions of time and effort into expanded services for local foster youth.
A $2,500 grant from the Sundt Foundation helped enhance monthly training opportunities for CASA volunteers, ensuring the best possible outcomes for the foster youth the organization serves.
“With only 30 percent of our funding coming from the government, CASA Sacramento depends on private dollars to thrive,” Elizabeth said. ”The private sector has helped us fulfill our mission for the past 25 years.”
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