Twenty-four years ago, I considered becoming a CASA volunteer to serve one of the more than 50,000 children in California foster care at that time. As a gay man, I was relieved to quickly discover that the nondiscrimination statement published by my local CASA program included lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) employees and volunteers. This was a progressive expression of LGBTQ support for its time. I still remember my volunteer screening interview with the Executive Director of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. It was the most empowering discussion I had ever had about my family history and life experiences, including my sexual orientation. It was clear from that interview that the fact I was gay
would not only be tolerated but valued in my work as a CASA volunteer.
I learned from the training I received that every CASA volunteer is expected to leave their biases behind and be open and affirming to the children and families they serve. As CASAs, our duty is to support and celebrate the attributes of each child including their religion, race, or sex (including sexual orientation and gender expression.) This means celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a Latino boy, participating in a Black rights event with an African American girl, and affirming the feelings of a gender non-conforming child. As CASAs, our job is to be their voice in court and in the community, and to help them get the resources they need for stability and success in life and school.
On June 15, 2020, I was delighted to learn that in Bostock v. Clayton County, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the workplace protection of an employee’s sexual orientation and gender expression. This means the thirty percent of foster youth in our nation who are LGBTQ will encounter one less obstacle as they grow up and become productive citizens.
This case unfortunately had a connection to our CASA mission. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Gerald Bostock, a gay man who was hired and later fired by Clayton County, Georgia, and whose job responsibility was to provide support for the CASA mission in Clayton County. In contrast, I am proud to say that California has been at the forefront in the protection of LGBTQ rights of employees, volunteers, and children in the foster care system. Many years before last month’s Supreme Court ruling, California State Law protected employees based on their sexual orientation and gender expression. Until this new Federal ruling,however, employees and volunteers in Georgia had no such protections. California has gone even further and in 2003 passed AB458, which was the first legislation of its kind in the United States to explicitly include protections for LGBTQ youth in the California foster care system.
The California CASA Association, our Board of Directors, and our network of 44 CASA programs statewide are committed to the equal treatment of our employees, volunteers, and most important, the children we serve. I am proud to support these values and serve our mission of transforming the lives of abused and neglected children throughout our state.
Chair, Board of Directors, California CASA Association, FY2020-2021