Child Advocates Hosts 3rd Annual CASA Summit

Event: CASA Summit

Date: Saturday, July 22, 2023

Location: De Anza College, Cupertino, CA

Population Served: Current Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers

Event Highlights: 

On Saturday, over 65 Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers came from near and far to attend CASA Summit 2023. This annual day of learning provides CASAs with valuable opportunities to connect with one another, strengthen their community and explore new ways to support Santa Clara County foster youth, free of charge. This year’s summit featured two sessions with keynote speaker Julie Kurtz, Founder and CEO of the Center for Optimal Brain Integration (COBI) and author of the award-winning book Understanding My Brain: Becoming Human(E)!

CASAs gathered bright and early to enjoy breakfast with their supervisors, reconnect with colleagues from previous years and expand their networks with new connections. Seasoned Volunteers sported freshly minted “anniversary pins” denoting their years of service, and welcomed recent graduates into the fold as all reviewed the contents of their welcome bags. Julie’s morning session covered the impacts of toxic stress and provided a myriad of ways CASAs can help foster youth build resilience and establish pathways to healing. This included the ways in which novelty, uncertainty and isolation contribute to dysregulation, forcing children to remain in a perpetual state of high alert, and covered how even a single healthy connection can help positively rewire the nervous system. Julie stressed the importance of helping children find “islands of safety”—peaceful pathways in the midst of emotional storms—and discussed the CASA’s role in creating these islands if they do not pre-exist in a child’s world. This session reinforced what our CASA Volunteers already know about the power positive childhood experiences, including the research-backed impact they have in combating trauma, and provided them with a wealth of ideas to add to their tool belts moving forward. 

CASAs then had the opportunity to apply what they learned in breakout rooms. Divided by age groups, they participated in interactive activities that put Julie’s teachings into practice and allowed CASAs to learn from one another. The morning ended with the formal recognition of notable milestones for CASAs in attendance; cause for celebration indeed.

  • CASA Who Has Served the Most Kiddos: Angela D’Orfani — 9 youths
  • CASA Who Has Served the Longest on a Single Case: Jan Maisen — 8 years
  • Longest-Serving CASA Mentor: Tracy Warmer-Gries — 5 years
  • CASA Who Travels the Farthest for Consistent In-Person Visits: Cindy Jermasek — 141 miles
  • CASA Who Maintained Visits After Their Youth Left the County: Chelsie Calendin
  • CASA with the Youth Living the Farthest Away: Emily Renuart — Los Angeles
  • Longest-Serving CASA: Jasmine Scott — 11 years

After lunch, CASAs had the opportunity to shift their focus and join Julie for a session on the impacts of secondary trauma and prioritizing self-care. It was the perfect way to both acknowledge their hard work and drive home that the first step to SHOWING UP for our foster youth is SHOWING UP for ourselves. As a parting gift, all attendees received brand new swag along with many thanks from Child Advocates CEO Frederick J. Ferrer for their continued support and devotion to our mission.

That’s another successful CASA Summit in the books—we can’t wait to see everyone again next year!