In honor of Women’s History Month (and because it’s also her birthday month), this March, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley is spotlighting the remarkable accomplishments of Jennifer Katzen, and wishing her a very happy birthday! Get to know Jennifer beyond her advocacy.
March Advocate Spotlight: Jennifer (Jenny) Katzen, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer
Years of service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 6+
Number of children served: 3 total
Jennifer Katzen, who prefers going by Jenny and is referred to as a “CASA Auntie” by her former foster youth, is an instructional coach and intervention teacher for an elementary school. She is a Bay Area native who is also the head of household to four “fan-tabby-istic” furry cats named Sebastian, Lucie, Remy and Jasper.
One late night in 2011, Jenny was in a Google wormhole, googling about how to become a foster parent, and all things related to foster care. She soon landed on the subject of being a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA Volunteer, and eventually stumbled upon the Child Advocates website. Jenny is the type of person that puts 110% of her heart and soul into anything that she is passionate about. Her job placement at the time did not allow her to commit to becoming a CASA Volunteer but the opportunity remained in the back of her mind. Eventually, she landed a job that gave her the opportunity to become a CASA and she’s been one for almost 7 years.
As an educator, Jenny has always enjoyed helping students overcome their challenges. Jenny knew she would love advocating for foster youth, because she was already advocating for students in her classroom. She knew advocating for foster children may present challenges but she was ready and didn’t shy away from helping a youth that needed extra attention and care.
Moved by the foster youth’s profile, Jenny chose her first assignment. After learning her youth was one of five siblings in foster care, but the only one without a CASA, Jenny knew she had to be their CASA because every foster youth deserves someone to be there for them.
Now, Jenny is on her third case, this time with a foster teen. She teamed up with a fellow CASA that she met from her first case and they decided to take on a sibling case. Due to her extensive experience navigating the school system, Jenny supports her foster teen as much as she can academically.
Jenny is extremely grateful that the families and foster youth from her first two cases continue to keep in touch with her. Her first teen who is now a hardworking adult, calls Jenny their “CASA Auntie”!
“I chose you, but you don’t have to choose me, and that’s okay. I’m your CASA until your case closes. Once your case closes, you can then decide that our time together was great and we’re done, or you and your family can continue to stay in touch. Instead of me being your CASA, I am your family friend” – Jenny Katzen
Being a CASA is an impact that lasts a lifetime. To date, every foster youth that Jenny has advocated for has wanted to continue their relationship.
“Getting to spend time with them and being a part of their lives during the case is amazing. The bonus is getting to stay in their lives even after the case closes” – Jenny Katzen
All of the children that Jenny has worked with have been extraordinary youths that are dealing with very difficult circumstances, and that is why the CASA Program is so important. Becoming a CASA has expanded her knowledge and skill sets as an educator, especially when working with children who are also in the dependency system. Every time a child comes to her school that is in foster care, one of the very first questions she asks them is if they have a CASA, and if they don’t, she refers them to Child Advocates so they can receive one.
Looking back, she wishes that she became a CASA sooner because it is a life changing experience; it’s even more rewarding and fulfilling than she ever imagined. Jenny highly recommends everyone to become a CASA Volunteer, to take the leap and go for it. Being a CASA is such a fun and rewarding experience. Her advice for anyone that wants to advocate for foster youth is to always keep an open mind, have a positive attitude and to make sure that they are doing it for the right reasons.
Fun Facts About Jenny
Current TV Show To Watch: Jenny enjoys watching reality dating shows and anything involved with the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise. She recommends watching Love Is Blind Japan.
MUST Watch Movie: Anything DISNEY!
Last Book You’ve Read: The last book Jenny read is The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. The book is a biography and nonfiction that depicts a Hmong family’s experiences while living in Merced, and their interactions with the American healthcare system.
Favorite Food/Cuisine: Jenny is a pizza lover and also enjoys eating Ethiopian dishes. As a pescatarian, she prefers her pizza with extra cheese and mushrooms, but hold the anchovies. Her favorite Ethiopian spot is Gojo, a family and black owned restaurant, located in San Jose.
Favorite Hobbies: Jenny considers herself a crafter, as she loves doing arts and crafts projects. Additionally, she is great at finding fashion treasures at local thrift stores. Grandma Sheik is in, and fast fashion is out.
Best Advice You Ever Received: “Always invite someone to a party, even if you think they won’t come” – Jenny’s Great Aunt