This month we’re ecstatic to spotlight Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer Kristin Taylor. Read on to find out how her professional background uniquely informs her ability to support her youth academically and socially.
CASA Volunteer: Kristin Taylor (Kris-Tin Tay-Ler), she/her/hers
Years of Service with Child Advocates of Silicon Valley: 3
Number of Children Served: 1
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
Kristin’s advocacy journey began shortly after graduating from college. Her first job involved working closely with the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) as an intensive foster care social worker, and the experience left an indelible mark. Hours of meetings with various academic, medical and social care teams made it abundantly clear that without the right people in the room, it’s far too easy for a foster child’s voice to go unheard.
She specifically recalls a number of instances where Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) were presented with the wrong child’s name intermixed in the files, clearly illustrating the plans were not individually tailored at all.
Describing one of these instances, Kristin says, “They had obviously cut and pasted, and it just felt so cold that his IEP wasn’t even necessarily for him. It made me realize that there needs to be people at the table who can make sure these youth with specific needs are given individualized support.”
Today, Kristin is the Vice President of Resident Services at an affordable housing nonprofit, but she maintains a deep understanding of how critical it is for every foster youth to have a representative in their corner—someone who has the skills to amplify their voice and ensure they’re receiving the resources needed to thrive.
ANSWERING THE CALL
One night, while scrolling through social media, Kristin stumbled upon a post asking, “Interested in becoming a CASA Volunteer?” It caught her at just the right time, because she was sorely missing the interactions she’d had running youth development programs.
“I have a demanding job, but service is really important to me,” she says. “I thought it would be nice with my background in social work to not have to be a social worker but [still utilize my understanding of] some of the best ways to support a child on their own terms.”
After completing her training, Kristin happened to find a youth on the waiting list who seemed to adore cats almost as much as her, and she was certain it would be a match made in heaven. Over the last few years, Kristin’s relationship with Dana* has steadily deepened, and she’s readily filled the roles of mentor, advocate and voice.
“I didn’t anticipate caring so much for this young person,” Kristin shares. “She’s gone through three LACY** attorneys, four social workers and six placements, and that’s just since I’ve known her—in three years. Everyone’s always saying, ‘You’re the one constant,’ and I say, ‘Yeah, that’s what a CASA’s for!’”
LEADING THE WAY
Thanks to Kristin, Dana has been able to enjoy exciting experiences that build her confidence, like attending sleep-away camp this summer and braving horseback riding lessons. Perhaps more importantly, however, Kristin has been a valuable role-model and paved the way for Dana to effectively communicate her wants and needs, something that’s relatively new to her. Kristin has focused much of her time on teaching the skills Dana needs to thrive both socially and academically, including the importance of accountability and setting healthy boundaries.
“I have more patience than I thought I would—it’s opened my mind,” Kristin says. “I don’t plan on ever being a parent, so this is a special relationship with a youth [that allows me to be in that] supportive, mentoring-type role.”
As Dana’s educational rights holder, Kristin has developed a strong rapport with her school, ensuring Dana has the tools and accommodations she needs to be successful, but she’s also helped Dana learn to speak up on her own. She now advocates for herself when she needs a movement or mental break, communicates when she’s bothered by a classmate and is working on taking responsibility when she makes mistakes.
This last skill is one of the most important lessons Kristin has instilled. She’s talked at length about being accountable and has helped Dana to understand that owning her actions will not make Kristin care for her any less—her commitment to Dana is not conditional. Mistakes are part of life, and Kristin consistently proves that she will show up for their standing date every Sunday, no matter what.
*An alias was used to preserve the privacy of the child
**Legal Advocates for Children & Youth (LACY)
Currently Binge Watching: “RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars”
Movie Recommendation(s): “Dirty Dancing”
Podcast Recommendation(s): “Crime Junkie”
Album(s) on Repeat: “Folklore” and “Evermore” by Taylor Swift
Favorite Cuisine: Cheese Pizza
Favorite Place: Austin, Texas
Support Foster Youth Today
Here are just a few of the ways you can SHOW up for foster youth this month:
- Support our CASA Program and invest in our foster youth with a financial contribution.
- Become a Corporate Champion by sponsoring an activity or one of our fundraising events. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how your company can be a part of the solution for foster kids.
- Shop for clothing, toiletries, toys, and school supplies for our foster kids by visiting our Amazon Wish List.