Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) speak up for the needs of children and make a positive impact in their lives

SAN DIEGO — Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq., CEO of California CASA, announced today the appointment of Kathryn L. Mathews as Chief Program Director, effective Apr. 12. She is currently the Executive Director of the local CASA program in El Dorado County, a position she has held since 2018. Child Advocates of El Dorado County advocates for and empowers the county’s abused, neglected, and at-risk youth by providing Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) who speak up for the needs of children and make a positive impact in their lives.

In welcoming the new Chief Program Director, Sharon Lawrence said, “We are so delighted to have Kathryn join our team. She shares our passion for the CASA mission and for helping California’s children in foster care, and she will bring strong personal and professional qualities to our entire network of 44 local CASA programs. In addition to having intimate and practical knowledge of how to grow and sustain a CASA program, she also brings significant business management experience and technical expertise thanks to her 13 years as a corporate executive. As one of our network’s executive directors for the past three years, Kathryn already knows and admires these colleagues. They join me in looking forward to working with her as California CASA seeks to achieve an ambitious vision: that one day, we can serve every child who needs a Court Appointed Special Advocate on their side.”

Kathryn Mathews noted how pleased she was to move from the local CASA level to the statewide California CASA. “This is a dream job for me, with the opportunity to make a more significant impact on serving foster youth. It’s an honor to have a broader role in a mission that I’ve been passionately involved with for twenty years. CASA is near and dear to my heart, and I’m looking forward to supporting all of our state’s local programs to meet the needs of California’s foster youth.”

As Executive Director of Child Advocates of El Dorado County, Ms. Mathews took an organization that was faltering financially to one that is now far more secure. She helped raise the level of CASA advocacy and build an effective team that currently supervises 129 CASA volunteers advocating for 241 foster youth in El Dorado County. She successfully developed an online training tool called “CASA University” that served to double the number of El Dorado trained volunteers while increasing in-person training quality. CASA University is now deployed and used by 33 of the local CASA programs in California. Over the past year, she has been instrumental in dealing with COVID-19-related impacts on her CASA program, including transition to a remote working environment for the staff, helping CASAs maintain contact with their foster youth, and securing funds through the Payroll Protection Program and an Environmental Disaster Loan. Prior to her position in El Dorado, Ms. Mathews was Program Director at Child Advocates of Placer County (from 2007-2017), where she helped increase the number of CASA volunteers from 32 to 260 and grew advocate referrals by 150% by developing a marketing plan, facilitating increased CASA trainings, and building rapport with the Placer County juvenile dependency court system. Before joining the CASA network, Kathryn Matthews was Business Operations Director, Global Services, for Compaq Computers, a $400 million division of Hewlett Packard. In that role, she was a top performer, managing a large staff, achieving outstanding fiscal performance, and ensuring delivery of high customer satisfaction and loyalty. Kathryn Mathews lives in Cameron Park, California.

About California CASA was founded in 1987 to serve the individual local CASA programs throughout the state. The mission is to ensure that children in the foster care system have both a voice and the services they need for a stable future. There are currently 83,000 children in California foster care—the largest foster population of any state in the nation. California CASA strengthens the state network of 44 local CASA programs and advocates for child welfare policy and practices that will improve the lives of all foster children. CASA volunteers are a crucial intervention to help ensure safety, speed up permanent placement, help children and youth thrive in school, and support positive health outcomes. A CASA volunteer is often the only consistent adult in a child or youth’s life who is not paid to support and advocate for them. 

Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq., has been CEO since 2017; prior to that, she served for 20 years as CEO of Voices for Children (San Diego and Riverside Counties), one of the nation’s largest and most successful CASA programs. Chair of the 18-member Board of Directors is Kevin Gardner; the Board includes individuals representing all regions of California. California CASA is a private, nonprofit organization primarily funded by individuals, foundations, companies, and state government grants through the Judicial Council and the Office of Emergency Services’ Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. California CASA is pursuing an ambitious vision to ensure that every child in California foster care will have a CASA by their side if they need one. California CASA is one of 49 state CASA associations in the United States and a member of the National CASA/GAL Association. Learn more at californiacasa.org.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles