SAN DIEGO – California CASA, the private, nonprofit organization overseeing 44 local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) programs throughout the state of California, is honored that Senator Josh Newman (CA Senate District 29) put forth the bill SCR 49, declaring May 28 as CASA Appreciation Day in California. This is an opportunity for California to honor and thank the dedicated CASA volunteers who ensure children and youth in the foster care system have their voices heard every day. CASA Appreciation Day also gives the residents of California a chance to better understand the critical role a CASA volunteer plays in the lives of young people and inspire others to contribute their time and resources to support children in foster care. Throughout California, there are nearly 9,000 volunteer CASAs providing court advocacy and dedicated support to 14,000 foster children and youth.
Sharon M. Lawrence, Esq., CEO of California CASA, said, “We are so honored and grateful that Senator Newman and the State Legislature are recognizing the extraordinary men and women who selflessly dedicate themselves to the abused, neglected children in California’s foster care system. These CASAs are changing children’s lives every single day, whether by submitting thorough court reports to update judges on a child’s status or just being a consistent, trusted adult in a child’s life—genuinely interested in their well-being and providing hope and support during very difficult times.”
CASAs advocate for the best interests of children in foster care (ranging in age from birth through age 18 or 21, when they “age out” of foster care). A CASA volunteer, trained by their local county’s CASA program and appointed by a judge, provides the court with the comprehensive and objective information the court needs to make the most well-informed decisions and to help ensure positive outcomes for children and youth. These individuals not only advocate for children within the court, child welfare, and school systems but also form relationships with them that last for years. CASAs are trusted adults in these children’s lives, giving them a “voice” in court, in schools, and in the community.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life; they are rigorously screened and trained extensively by their local CASA program professionals, and receive 35 hours of training before they are assigned to work with a child. They receive ongoing support from CASA program professionals to help them advocate effectively on a child’s behalf. CASAs take the time to get to know the child at the heart of each case. They work in partnership with legal and child welfare professionals, educators, and service providers to ensure that each child has what they need to heal and thrive.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, California’s CASAs have remained committed to providing best-interest advocacy for their case children who have experienced abuse or neglect, and, as an organization, California CASA has worked with all 44 local programs to ensure that they have the support, technology, personal protection equipment, and other necessities to allow CASA advocacy to continue to interact virtually with their case children and the court when that could not happen in person.
To recognize the dedication and resilience of volunteer court advocates nationwide, the California State Legislature passed SCR 43, introduced by State Senator Josh Newman (who represents portions of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties). The bill text reads:
WHEREAS, All children have the right to a home with loving people to care for them, but each year in the United States, children are abused, neglected, or abandoned by their families. These children are removed from their homes, placed in foster care or institutions, and eventually end up in court; and
WHEREAS, A judge has the power to decide the future for these children and whether they should remain in foster care, be reunited with parents, or adopted, but in many cases, the children become victims for a second time, lost in an overburdened child welfare system that cannot pay close attention to each child; and
WHEREAS, CASA Appreciation Day recognizes the important role played by Court Appointed Special Advocate for children (CASA) volunteers. These trained community volunteers are appointed by a judge as officers of the court to speak up for children in juvenile court and to help humanize the often frightening and confusing child welfare and legal systems for these children; and
WHEREAS, Eighty thousand of California’s children are in foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. In 2020, 8,798 CASA volunteers supported 14,150 foster children in California. CASA volunteers play an important role in their lives by getting to know a foster care child and letting the judge and others in the child welfare system know about the child’s perspective and needs; and
WHEREAS, The CASA mission is to ensure consistency and support for children in the foster care system through the use of volunteer advocates advancing the best interests of each child; and
WHEREAS, The CASA vision is one where every child in need is appointed a CASA volunteer to champion the child in court, without compromise, on the path to a safe and permanent home; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, That the Legislature hereby declares that May 28, 2021, is recognized as CASA Appreciation Day in California.