This month we’re proud to spotlight Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer Anuja Burns for her exceptional work SHOWING UP for foster youth. Read on to learn how all roads led her to Child Advocates and how tenacity and resourcefulness have come into play in her work as a CASA.
CASA Volunteer: Anuja Burns (Uh-New-Juh Bernz), she/her/hers
Years of Service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 3
Number of Children Served: 3
LEADING WITH JOY
The first thing you notice about Anuja Burns is her joy. It’s evident even over the phone—you can feel it in her words without ever seeing her. When asked where this joy comes from, Anuja credits her life philosophy.
“I really believe in one humanity,” she says. “I think we’re all connected, and I think the only real joy is through service. I’ve tried to change my life [so that] anytime there’s an opportunity to serve, I jump at it.”
Anuja’s ingenuity and drive have led her to successfully explore multiple paths in her career, but she’s found that true meaning stems from her work outside of the office.
“I’ve had a lot of success professionally [and] academically,” she shares. “But I see now that real fulfillment comes from connections and building community.”
This is what drives her each and every day, and it’s this philosophy that makes her an outstanding CASA.
BECOMING A CASA
If there’s one word to describe Anuja’s life, it’s full. Sitting on multiple boards, co-founding a nonprofit in India, and providing expertise as an independent consultant is just the beginning of what keeps her busy, and it’s thanks to one of her many roles that Anuja first discovered Child Advocates of Silicon Valley. While serving as an alumni interviewer for Stanford University, Anuja happened to cross paths with a candidate who talked about serving as a CASA. She had long considered adopting or becoming a foster parent, and this interview opened a new realm of possibilities. She immediately began researching Child Advocates, knowing that this couldn’t just be a coincidence—this was an opportunity she was meant to pursue.
“I love, love, love working with youth, and I saw a need for foster youth to have better representation navigating the system. I didn’t have to think twice about it,” she says. “I’m really good at navigating systems and paperwork and processes, so I thought this was a perfect fit. I knew I could help these kids thrive in the Bay Area.”
And she certainly has.
PRIORITIZING POSITIVE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Research shows that providing children and adolescents with positive experiences can actively combat the effects of experienced trauma. This is one of the reasons Anuja works so hard to make after-school programs accessible to her youths, and it’s also why she ensures they attend as many Child Advocates-hosted events as possible. She is currently working with a child who has brothers and sisters in the dependency court system, and these events provide a special opportunity for the siblings to be reunited.
One of her favorite moments as a CASA came from the spring KIDSTRAVAGANZA event at which Child Advocates provided polaroid cameras.
“I made an effort to get pictures of all seven siblings, because they don’t see each other often,” Anuja recalls. “I heard from one of their teachers how they brought the pictures to school—it was so special—and [they were] able to share a little bit about [their lives and] brothers and sisters, so I thought that was really nice to have that memento to take home.”
Whenever they’re together, Anuja allows the children to lead, removing any pressure about what they “should” be doing and allowing them to simply be. She says it’s just as rewarding and freeing for her to be completely present with her CASA youths as it is for them, and it’s why she sees herself remaining a CASA for years to come.
Currently Binge Watching: “The Ultimatum: Queer Love”
Movie Recommendation(s): “Seoul Searching”
Book Recommendation(s): I’ll Show Myself Out and You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein; The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
Song on Repeat: “Blue Skies” by Noah and The Whale
Go-To Restaurant: Walia (San Jose)
Favorite Place: Belize
SUPPORT FOSTER YOUTH TODAY
Here are just a few of the ways you can SHOW UP for foster youth this month:
- Golf “FORE” foster youth at the 18th Annual O’Leary Golf Classic. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets are available for purchase now.
- Support our CASA Program and invest in our foster youth with a financial contribution. If your company offers donation matching, visit Double the Donation.
- Become a Corporate Champion by sponsoring an activity or one of our fundraising events. Email us at email@example.com to learn how your company can be a part of the solution for foster kids.