With November being National Gratitude Month, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley would like to express our gratitude to all of the phenomenal Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers and Mentors. We are especially grateful for Tomasine (Tom-A-Seen) Cole, a CASA who continuously goes above and beyond for foster youth.
November Advocate Spotlight: Tomasine Cole, CASA Volunteer
Years of service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 5.5 Years
Number of children served: 3 total
Tomasine first learned about the CASA Program in 2011 through her sister’s friend, a CASA Volunteer at Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. Wanting to learn more about the program, Tomasine attended an info session. However, realizing the time commitment to become a volunteer, Tomasine could not complete the pre-service training. Six years later, with more time on her hands, Tomasine again attended an info session and this time completed the pre-service training, where she also made a friend. Dorothy Ross, now her CASA Supervisor, has provided Tomasine support throughout her CASA journey.
Tomasine’s first case was a reserved and guarded foster teen but that didn’t stop Tomasine from doing all she could to SHOW UP for them. Tomasine enjoyed being a CASA Volunteer so much that she took on three cases simultaneously while having a full-time job and pursuing a degree in Social Work.
“Being a CASA Volunteer would be a high priority for me, so I made sure to shift my schedule accordingly for my teens’ needs. Although it was a challenge to balance everything, having regular check-ins with Dorothy, my CASA Supervisor, really helped me be able to support my teens in the best way possible.” – Tomasine Cole
Tomasine reflects on how in all three cases, each foster teen had to move out-of-county to stay at a different placement with new caregivers. According to aecf.org, more than a third of foster children and youth experience more than two placements each year, meaning their living arrangements change at least twice a year. However, throughout all these changes, Tomasine did what she could to provide constant and consistent support.
“For one case, I went once to Watsonville with the social worker to meet with my teen until they moved back to Santa Clara County. In another case, the teen had seven different phone numbers and has always communicated with me. She would even create group chats with myself, the social worker and the lawyer with her new number so we can all stay in touch with her and try to support her whenever needed.” – Tomasine Cole
One specific case that Tomasine reflects on is when her teen struggled with school. Transitioning from home to home is very difficult and can negatively impact academic performance, as changing homes often coincides with changing schools. Tomasine’s teen had to transfer to five different schools throughout high school and unfortunately lost quite a bit of her credits as a result. Determined to help her teen graduate high school, Tomasine would spend her days meeting her teen at their foster home and making sure that her coursework was being completed.
“Me being there really encouraged her to do her homework. It was key that every other week was homework, and the next week would be a bit of fun, like going out to eat. I was proud of her because I had seen how hard she’s been working, doing all the work herself. There was a healthy balance of school and fun.” – Tomasine Cole
The time dedicated to catching up on her classwork has helped her teen complete all the requirements needed to graduate high school on time. One of Tomasine’s proudest moments as a CASA Volunteer was when she was able to attend her teen’s high school graduation ceremony. Against all odds, going through multiple transitional periods in such a short amount of time, her teen walked on stage and received her diploma.
“We got matching rings together (pictured left) on her birthday, and we wore them at her graduation. It just felt like we were connected, and I was so proud of her during that moment. Now it’s kind of our thing to get matching things together.” – Tomasine Cole
Another favorite memory that Tomasine looks back on often was when she and her other teen attended their first Taylor Swift concert together. In 2018, Tomasine received two free Taylor Swift concert tickets from Child Advocates. Although her teen was not a “#Swiftie,” she has always wanted to experience what it was like to attend a concert. Together they went to Levi’s stadium and danced the night away at the Taylor Swift Reputation Tour concert.
“We went to Taylor Swift at Levi’s and danced the night away! She just loved the entire experience, and now as our little inside joke, we call her ‘our bestie Taylor’. We had such a blast!” – Tomasine Cole
Tomasine would also have crucial in-depth conversations with her foster teens regarding reunification, permanency, reproductive health and what it means to leave the system. These essential conversations would help Tomasine write her court reports, ensuring she was including the needs and wants her teen vocalized.
“We were very open about the best choices for them and why. I always made sure that their voices were being heard and aligning their needs with healthy choices.” – Tomasine Cole
Growing up in a single-parent household, Tomasine herself endured abandonment and instability. However, having positive adult role models, whether a family member or her mother’s coworker, helped Tomasine make better decisions and shaped her into the person she is today. Although having to go through difficult times in her early childhood years, Tomasine is grateful to her mother and her other adult role models, as they are why she has a positive life today. Tomasine saw the importance of mentors and how adult role models helped her. She is grateful that she has also had the opportunity to act as a mentor for other youth.
“Having experiences of adults who showed an interest in my life and my success mattered to me as a child. I valued having mentors, and so when I learned about the CASA Program, it just felt like the perfect opportunity to make an impact and pay it forward by being a mentor to foster youth.” – Tomasine Cole
Fun Facts About Tomasine:
Favorite TV show to watch: During the holidays, Tomasine’s tradition is binge-watching The Great British Bake-Off, which is available to stream on Netflix. Tomasine’s guilty pleasure tv show franchise to watch regularly is the Real Housewives series, especially Potomac, Salt Lake City and Atlanta.
Singer/Band she can’t stop listening to: Tomasine appreciates music from Greta Van Fleet, Linkin Park and Yungblud.
Favorite food/dish: Tomasine and her grandmother used to make lattes and apple sauce together. Being a very sentimental person, especially around the holidays, now, every Hanukkah, Tomasine makes the same dishes in remembrance of her grandmother and her #JewishHeritage.
Favorite hobbies: Tomasine is a modern-day Shakespeare, using her free time to write novels and short stories. Every November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Tomasine joins a community of fellow writers to challenge themselves to write a 50,000 words short novel. If she ever has writer’s block, Tomasine will enjoy beeswax candle making, soap making and spending time at the pool.
Tomasine is also very grateful for CASA Village, which is when Child Advocates of Silicon Valley transforms their Milpitas office into a holiday workshop filled with festive decor and toys. Child Advocates invites all CASA Volunteers and foster youth, teens and Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs) to CASA Village, where every one of them will receive a special holiday gift.
“I had the experience of bringing two of my foster youth to CASA Village, and they had the most fun picking out their gifts. One of my youth even picked out a gift for someone else too! It’s precious and special that Child Advocates does that for all of the foster youth.” – Tomasine Cole
To give back to foster youth this holiday season, scroll down below to learn how you can make an impact!
Support Foster Youth This Holiday
This month, you can give back by SHOWING UP for our foster youth. Here are the many ways you can help:
- If you or anyone you know would be interested in becoming an Advocate for foster youth, sign up now!
- Invest in our foster youth by making a financial donation to support our CASA Program and the children we serve. View if your company offers a company match on Double the Donation.
- Become a Corporate Champion by sponsoring our fundraising events or one of the many activities we host for the children we serve. Email us at email@example.com to learn how your company can be a part of the solution for foster kids.
- You can shop for specific items that our foster kids need, such as toys, school supplies, clothing, toiletries and more, by visiting our Amazon Charity List.