The goal of our Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program is to ensure every child in the Santa Clara County Dependency Court System (foster care) has a caring, stable adult in their life to mitigate the effects of having experienced abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment.
As an affiliate of the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association, we are responsible for adhering to the national guidelines when training, recruiting and supporting CASA Volunteers in Santa Clara County.
A Responsibility We Take Seriously
All CASA Volunteers are trained community members who are appointed with a court order by a judge to advocate for the best interests of a child in foster care. They stay with each case for up to a year or until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home. CASA Volunteers work with legal and child welfare professionals, educators, service providers and family members to ensure the child’s voice is heard. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.
It is our job to ensure our CASA Volunteers are the right people for the job and receive the training and support needed to succeed. To become a CASA Volunteer, candidates are required to attend an info session, participate in face-to-face interviews, pass an extensive background check and attend 30 hours of training (currently conducted via webinars and online classes). Only then are they able to select and get appointed to a case and begin their advocacy.
Our CASA Volunteers SHOW UP, STAND UP & LIFT UP.
Once appointed to a case, our CASA Volunteers are expected and supported to:
Build a one-to-one trusted relationship with your foster child and consistently SHOW UP by planning weekly in-person visits and activities.
STAND UP for your foster child within the system to ensure they receive the services and resources they’re entitled to and would benefit from.
Be a Voice
Attend court hearings and submit written reports directly to the Court to assist the judge in making decisions that will LIFT UP the child.
A CASA Volunteer’s advocacy can change the life trajectory of a child in foster care.
Giving Children the Support They Need
In addition to adhering to the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program guidelines, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley supports its CASA Volunteers with creating Advocacy Plans tailored to the child(ren) they’re serving. Advocacy Plans give the CASAs insight into a child’s well-being and development, and informs and records the services and resources provided to every child throughout their time with Child Advocates, from CASA Volunteer assignment to Court case closure. These plans are intended to strengthen the most important aspects of the role of a CASA Volunteer: building a relationship with the youth, advocating for them in the system and voicing their concerns to the Court.
Child Advocates of Silicon Valley has also identified and dedicated resources to specialty areas that enhance our CASA Program and better support the children we serve. Each specialty area has a dedicated CASA Specialist responsible for offering activities and resources, developing community partnerships, identifying community resources and tracking child outcomes. Our specialty areas are instrumental in equipping CASA Volunteers with the knowledge and resources required to help children overcome the effects of having experienced trauma.
Early experiences affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. The Ages 0-5 specialty area promotes the healthy development and kindergarten readiness of children 0-5 years of age.
The Ages 6-12 specialty area is built on the foundation of providing educational support and enrichment activities, connection to socialization opportunities and programs, incorporating Social Emotional Learning training and techniques, and healthy lifestyles inclusive of both mental and physical health.
Adolescence is the period of developmental transition between childhood and adulthood. It involves changes in personality, as well as in physical, intellectual and social development. Ages 13 – 17 specialty area supports our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer’s expertise by providing training in how to properly support teens in the key areas of academics, personal growth and transitional needs.
A Non-Minor Dependent (NMD) is a current non-minor under the jurisdiction of the Dependency Court. The NMD specialty area promotes our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer’s ability to support NMDs in the key areas of: academics, employment, financial literacy and housing.
One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average. The Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault specialty area promotes safety planning, education and awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault trends.
Some dependency youth are involved in two legal systems, therefore they’re called “Dually Involved Youth”. The DIY specialty area promotes the prevention of justice involvement and the continued education support for those already involved.
The highest percentage of hospitalizations among youth ages 0-17 in California was for mental health reasons in 2017. Mental diseases and disorders accounted for 14% of hospitalization, as measured by discharges. Our Mental & Behavioral Health specialty area helps Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteers understand how to recognize signs that may indicate the need for intervention and works with CASAs to engage children/youth in therapy. More than 10% of kids under 5 in California have a disability or special need that may impact their ability to play and learn. Our Special Needs specialty area promotes the capacity of CASAs to effectively advocate for children with special needs, engages children and CASAs in social and learning opportunities and collaborates with systems and providers to ensure access to and coordination of services
Being in the dependency system is traumatic enough for most children and teens, but LGBTQ+ youth in foster care have the added layer of trauma that comes with being rejected or mistreated because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The LGBTQ+ specialty area promotes cultural competence in the issues our youth face. We focus on areas of concern for our youth and best practices for working through these barriers.
Educational stability and continuity are key factors in a student’s long-term and overall success, including: graduating with a high school diploma, obtaining post secondary education and maintaining stable employment. The Education (K-12) specialty area trains CASA Volunteers on updated mandates and rights afforded to children in foster care.
Studies have shown that adolescent girls in foster care are more than twice as likely as their peers not in foster care to become pregnant by age 19, and half of 21-year-old men aging out of foster care report they had gotten someone pregnant, compared to 19 percent of their peers who were not in the system. The Reproductive Health and Teen Parent specialty area promotes education and awareness of local laws impacting youth 12 years and older.