The Court Appointed Special Advocate Association of Tulare County receives $186,342 in grant funding to further their foster youth programs
VISALIA – A local advocacy organization served hundreds of foster youth last year for the betterment of their lives, and this year were able to expand their program due to grant funding from the state.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate Association, better known as CASA, of Tulare County provides programs and resources for foster youth throughout the county. This week, CASA of Tulare County announced they received a $186,342 grant award from their headquarters, the California CASA, to strengthen their programs for the children they serve. The grant awarded to CASA of Tulare County is allocated from a $20 million state appropriation to California CASA, the statewide association that serves a network of 44 local programs.
“I am grateful that the California State Legislature has prioritized the valuable work of the local programs throughout the state,” Alberto Ramos, executive director of CASA of Tulare County said in a statement. “CASA volunteer involvement in foster-care cases is a cost-effective intervention. Volunteers on average provide about a quarter million dollars’ worth of advocacy services, based on their volunteer work hours.”
Within the foster-care system in California, volunteer court-appointed special advocates are matched with a child or sibling group, and advocate on their behalf in court, in schools, in health care settings and in the community. The grant is a capacity building grant, and is the first step toward achieving the goal to reach all youth in the foster care system, which Sharon Lawrence, the CEO of California CASA, hopes to reach within a decade.
“Our ultimate vision is to support all children statewide who could benefit from a CASA volunteer — an estimated 46,000 who live within the foster-care system,” Lawrence said in a statement. “We thank Governor Newsom and the California State Legislature for sharing our vision and supporting this vital work.”
Lawrence said that the grant will help build a solid foundation for increasing the number of CASA programs serving children in Tulare County. CASA of Tulare County already has made an impact in the lives of many foster youth. Last year, they supported 250 youth in the county with the help of their 200 volunteers, who altogether gave more than 6,500 hours of their time to the organization.
California has more children and youth in foster care than any other state in the nation – approximately 80,000 in a year. Currently, only 16% of California foster children, which is roughly 13,000 youth, have a CASA volunteer advocating on their behalf, but California CASA and its board of directors have set a 10-year visionary goal to provide CASAs for every child who needs one.
The 44 independent, nonprofit CASA organizations, appointed by their local Superior Courts, are in 51 of the state’s 58 counties — locations where 99% of California’s foster population live.
Aside from their time spent with the child, CASAs communicate with all of the other adults in a child’s life – teachers, doctors, lawyers, biological families, social workers and caregivers. With the knowledge they gather, they request important services for a child, such as counseling, tutoring, physical therapy or medical services. They also submit written reports to the court, which can be entered as evidence in the case and upon which dependency judges rely to make important decisions about the child’s future.
For those wishing to become a volunteer, the CASA of Tulare County is actively recruiting. There are currently 326 children waiting for the advocacy services of a CASA volunteer. For more information on becoming a CASA, visit the website at www.casatulareaco.org.