San Francisco Court Appointed Special Advocate Program Overview
Programs: SFCASA recruits volunteers from all of San Francisco?s culturally diverse communities. Each volunteer makes a commitment to work with and for an assigned client child for a minimum of 18 months. Volunteers are rigorously screened and participate in a one-hour interview with two staff members. Their backgrounds are checked through the California Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Volunteer candidates complete 36 hours of classroom training, three hours of court observation (followed by a second hour-long interview conducted by staff), and 12 hours annually of in-service education. Once sworn to confidentiality and assigned to a case, under the supervision of a professional SFCASA Case Supervisor, new volunteers prepare Case Plans for their assigned clients based on comprehensive assessment of individual need and background. As sworn officers of the court, SFCASA volunteers have full access to all confidential information pertaining to their client children and thus are able to advocate effectively to address children?s needs. The SFCASA volunteer is often the only adult with comprehensive knowledge of the client child?s history and needs. On any given day, SFCASA serves approximately 200 children.
The volunteer visits the client child weekly and reports to the court at six-month intervals concerning the child?s status and needs. On the basis of careful and comprehensive individual needs assessment, the SFCASA volunteer addresses the client child?s basic needs, the most compelling of which are for 1) a safe, permanent, and nurturing home; 2) educational services appropriate to the individual child?s needs; 3) preventive and indicated healthcare; 4) after school activities which build self-esteem, promote a sense of community, and offer alternatives to delinquent behaviors; 5) a caring, consistent, and responsible adult who teaches and models constructive alternatives of behavior and establishes a relationship of trust with the client child enabling the child to steer away from high risk activities.
SFCASA volunteers are trained in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process and are designated in the State Education Code as qualified to serve as Surrogate Parents For Education Purposes if no family member is able to represent the client child?s interests in an IEP proceeding.
SFCASA also provides specialized services for pre-emancipation youth (14+) through a focused effort to promote their successful transition to adult life; for infants and toddlers, many of whom are medically fragile and developmentally delayed; and for emotionally disturbed children.
SFCASA operates in compliance with National CASA Association Program Standards, with California Rule of Court (CRC) 5.655, and with local rules of court. We are co-signatories of Memoranda of Understanding with the San Francisco Unified Family Court and the Human Services Agency.
Serious and chronic health and developmental problems occur approximately 500% more frequently among our court dependent children than in the general population. Healthcare is often neglected for these children, for whom minor and treatable health problems can become severe and incapacitating. These children as a group tend to be learning-disabled, to suffer emotional disturbances because of impermanence and exposure to violence, to have chronic and often untreated health problems, and to be high risk for failure in school, chronic unemployment, substance abuse, incarceration, and homelessness.
By finding safe and permanent homes for client children and by addressing these children?s educational, healthcare, and other urgent needs, SFCASA volunteers promote clients? healthy emotional development and minimize the consequences of abuse and neglect. SFCASA is the only agency operating in San Francisco dedicated exclusively to providing this client population with comprehensive advocacy and mentorship.
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