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CASA of Sonoma County (Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sonoma County)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Centers to Support the Independence of Specific Populations, Child Abuse Prevention, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Crime & Law, Domestic Violence, Human Services, Protection Against Abuse

Mission: Sonoma CASA Program is committed to serving the abused and neglected children in Sonoma County who come before the Juvenile Court for protection. The purpose of CASA is to humanize the complicated, unfamiliar, and frightening legal and child welfare systems for the child victim by providing a trained volunteer who will act as a consistent mentor, role model, support person, and advocate.

Results: http://www.sonomacasa.org/aboutus/director.html

Target demographics: To help the abused and neglected children of Sonoma County.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 180-200 abused and neglected children in Sonoma County, on average.

Geographic areas served: Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, CA, USA

Programs: A safe, permanent home isn't something that a child should only dream about.. Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are everyday people who are trained and then appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. Our Program Goal: 1. Advocate vigorously for the rights of abused/neglected children in Sonoma County ensuring that all "reasonable efforts" have been made for a child at every stage of the court dependency process. 2. Improve the quality of information presented to the Juvenile Court on behalf of the child by informing the court of the child's adjustment and state of mind. Relevant information is gathered and appropriate case recommendations made in a written case report. 3. Develop and implement a sound program management plan which includes recruitment, retention, supervision, and training of a competent volunteer corps which is ethnically, racially, and linguistically representative of the population to be served.

Community Stories

84 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a social worker, I work with CASA on a frequent basis. They are so dedicated to the youth they serve and make my job so much easier! I love CASA.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I was on the founding board of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Sonoma County. I served the limit of six years and watched it grow and become a vital aspect of the juvenile dependency court.

CASA is a program matching advocates with children who have been removed from the home for abuse or neglect and placed in the juvenile dependency court system. The advocate spends 2-4 hours per week with the child providing mentorship as well as advocating for the child's interests in court.

As with any new program, CASA was met with skepticism by social workers and attorneys. It is now a robust program lauded by those same skeptics. One adult can make an enormous difference in a child's life, particularly when that child has been victimized by a parent's shortcomings, illnesses and addictions. It makes the difference between that child overcoming their abuse or growing up to be an addict/abuser themselves.

These hurt children also run the risk of becoming youthful offenders and ending up in the juvenile justice system.

The advocates commit to a very high level of volunteerism. The screening and training is intensive. Their commitment to a child is for a minimum of one year and often exceeds two years.

There are few immediate rewards for an advocate. They serve knowing that they may never see the fruits of their labor, may never be thanked or outwardly appreciated by the child they are serving. But they have faith that the time with their child makes a difference.

CASA of Sonoma County has been very fortunate to have Millie Gilson as the executive director for all of its years. I've never met a more passionate and dedicated child advocate. She is tireless in all aspects of the organization -- from program development, advocate training, board development, fundraising, ongoing training.

CASA of Sonoma County is most deserving of continued support from generous donors.

1 Sofia B.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Although I just began my journey as a CASA, I can already tell it is one of the best decisions I have made in my college career. I currently serve as an office intern and as a CASA. I just took on my case and I am so excited to see what I will learn from my CASA kid throughout this journey. I am learning a lot about the foster system and important sociological/psychological concepts by being an office intern and CASA. This program is incredibly life-changing, both for volunteers and CASA kids!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Very impressed with my experience with this organization. They are well organized and always available to help out where needed. The experience working with children in need is rewarding, fulfilling, and invaluable.

Previous Stories
6

Advisor

Rating: 5

CASA is a non-profit organization that trains, supervises, and supports citizens of the community as they advocate for children in foster care, as well as those involved in the delinquency system. I have been involved with the CASA organization for over six years now and it has been the most valuable/ rewarding experience I have ever had. My hope is that everyone who is taking the time to read this, will take the time to find out more about CASA and how they can become involved. Remember - children are our future!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization is a lifesaver for kids in the foster care system.

1 JoAnn A.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From the comprehensive training to the warm support of the volunteer supervisors, the programs at CASA of Sonoma County deliver at every turn. Of course, the work with youth is the heart of the program, and those hours have added immeasurably to my life. I have learned from the network of specialists surrounding the foster youth, and I have felt the honor of being among them as we struggle to provide what the foster youth need to succeed. It is hard work, at times frustrating, and it requires the best of the volunteers. What other volunteer opportunity can make such a claim?

1 Kathleen Carroll E.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I went through the CASA training in January, 2018 - which was very thorough. I felt prepared to meet my CASA child. My 9 year old boy and I just celebrated our six month anniversary and have gotten together each week to talk, hang out, eat dinner, play at places like Epicenter, Rebounderz, Driven, Scandia, go to movies, etc... He is a wonderful boy who has loving grandparents taking care of him .

I became a CASA volunteer to positively enrich a child's life through support and encouragement and I feel like we are good for each other. We both look forward to our evenings together and I know that he feels he can talk to me about anything - without judgment.

The CASA Volunteer Supervisors are always available to answer my questions and give me advice.

I highly recommend becoming a CASA and a few of my co-workers and friends are pursuing this opportunity because I shared my experience.

Kathy

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer with CASA of Sonoma County for about a year and a half. In that time I have had the privilege of assisting three different families during their experiences with the child welfare system. Having the opportunity to interact with foster youth, biological parents, foster parents, social workers, educators, therapists, attorneys and many other professionals is an interesting, challenging and eye-opening experience. As a CASA, I work always to help advocate for what is in the best interest of the child, navigating a complex and flawed system along the way. What I have consistently found throughout this process is that ALL people are flawed and that at their core almost ALL people are good.

Working as a CASA requires that I put my heart on the line, choosing to do what I can to ease the burden of the children I work with. Often that means adopting their struggles and pain; helping them to feel that they have someone they can share with, rely on, and trust. There are days that I feel sad or frustrated, but then there are days when I feel so proud and excited about the progress one of my kids or their families are making. My eyes have been opened to the struggles faced in our community and to the many biases that exist.

CASA of Sonoma County provides a great support system to ensure you have guidance and direction throughout your experience. If you think that you have the heart and the skills to take on caring about a child, putting their best interest ahead of your own ideas, and making the time in your life to try to make a difference in their future then you might make an amazing child advocate. Reach out to CASA today to find out more!

2 cahillrn

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a donor to CASA for many years. Their outstanding service for supporting foster children is unmatched. In the near future I plan to become a CASA to a special child in the community. Until then CASA is my charity of choice to donate to financially.

Previous Stories
8

Donor

Rating: 5

I love CASA and their mission. Children are the vulnerable in our society and it is our duty to make sure they are cared for. When children are in the "system" they need us even more. CASA volunteers are assigned a child and are there to advocate for that child to ensure the best decisions are made for the child's benefit. So far I have only been a donor to this outstanding organization, but in the very near future I plan to become a CASA volunteer and make a difference in a child's life. Thank you, Carole

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2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I took the training to be a CASA volunteer shortly after I retired and I have been an advocate for my youth for over 4 years. As typical for a child in foster care my youth was moved several times and had changes in his social worker and schools. For the past 4 years I have been steady presence in his life visiting and going on outings and most importantly, listening. I have been able to work with his teachers and care takers to be certain he is getting all that is available to ensure happy and healthy development. The CASA organization is literally available 24/7, able to provide counseling and services to enrich both the life of my youth and certainly mine.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been with this agency since it's inception almost twenty one years ago. I have had the honor to advocate for seven young women as a CASA volunteer. I was able connect with these girls on a personal and professional level. In each case they were able to give so much value and texture to my life by allowing me to see that there are life experiences that are different from mine but that adversity can and will be overcome. I have come to value each and every human being and seeing potential in them. I also served in the office as a Training Coordinator for two years. In that capacity I have come to value and appreciate the players in the Social Service system in this county. There is a dedication to these children and a compassion that permeates from the professionals in their field from Social Workers to Supervisors of Human Services to the judges whose burden is such that I am honored to be able to report to them to make their decisions more informed and clear. If you want to make a difference in your life and the life of the future generations you will look into this nonprofit.

1 Jade R.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a CPS social worker I have worked with families in which one or more of the children had a CASA volunteer. In every case, CASA matched the child with a CASA that would be a goof fit for the family. For example, in a family with Spanish-speaking parents and bilingual children, CASA assigned a bilingual CASA volunteer who could also communicate with the parents. In another case, the boy who loved sports was assigned a CASA that also loved sports. In each case the CASAs were caring and responsible and communicated their observations of the child and family with both the social worker and the court. Some CASAs continue working with the child through the end of the case, which for some children can be years. One CASA helped the family find needed housing. The children we serve very much need stable, caring and responsible adult role models. CASAs are an essential part of the Child Welfare system!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I give my time, I like it to matter; I like to be clear about my duties, responsibilities, and purpose. CASA fulfills these requirements completely. The training is thorough and thoughtful, with presentations from all of the important organizations who care about and provide services for foster youth. From the training, the new CASA has an inside view of a system that has a most important purpose - care for abused and neglected children - and a sense of what the volunteer can do to help.

I recommend CASA to all my colleagues in the schools who contemplate retirement and want to continue to work with kids. The "work" is meaningful, simple, and often even fun.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a social worker with the Sonoma County Family, Youth and Children Division of the Human Services Department. I have worked with many families over the years in which one or more of the children had a CASA volunteer. I have also attending many Team Decision Making Meetings in which a CASA was present as a child advocate. I have been so impressed with the kindness, generosity and professionalism of the CASA volunteers. Oftentimes the families with which we work are facing serious challenges such as poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, medical health problems, and a history of trauma for both parents and children. Sometimes children are removed from their parents' care and the parents fail to reunify with their children and the children are cared for by relatives or foster parents. In some cases they go on to be adopted. In these long term cases the CASA stays in the child's life, continues to advocate for the child, spend time with the child, and report to the child welfare court how the child is doing. The CASA volunteer is a very important member of the team of professionals who are supporting the child. I know of one CASA (years ago) that helped a 13 year old girl raise money for her 8th grade trip to Washington DC. This was a girl who had never been on a plane and may not have every travelled outside of Sonoma County. This same CASA spent time with her each week her out to eat and to fun activities that her family had not been able to provide for her. This same CASA helped the family find a beautiful home to rent in a much safer neighborhood than where they had been living. CSA of Sonoma County and the CASA volunteers are providing an amazing service to high risk children and indirectly to their families as well. I am so grateful for all the work they do!

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been a CASA volunteer for 13 years. I stay involved because I know how important this service is to abused, abandoned, and neglected kids that, through no fault of their own, find themselves separated from their families. CASA is a well-run, highly efficient organization that very effectively gives these kids hope and chances for success to which they otherwise would not have access.

Previous Stories
9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've just completed my 10th year as a CASA volunteer; all with the same young man. It's been an amazing growth experience for both of us. Now, besides continuing to mentor my now-emancipated "CASA Kid", I help train incoming CASA's, providing insights as to the program's responsibilities. In the past few years, the young man has shared the podium with me, giving these recruits a full dose of what living in the system is really like, and the importance of CASA in his life.
Friendships, lawyers, social workers, group and foster homes, schools (and more) typically change frequently in the chaotic day-to-day experience of kids who are "wards of the court". Often, the CASA volunteer is the only consistent, reliable relationship these kids can count on to be there for them. And, we have been officially appointed to represent these kids in court. The judge gives as much weight to recommendations made by CASA's as by any other court official.
Being a CASA is sometimes frustrating, usually challenging, and always rewarding. This organization is definitely worth your financial support, or (and better yet) your personal involvement. Join us!

5

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I am glad I was a CASA volunteer. The training for the volunteers was excellent and the support good. I encountered many children who had little consistency in their homes and so I tried to provide a bit of consistency by meeting weekly and doing different fun and creative activities with my child.Bouncing around on a ship in the ocean hoping to see whales and feeling sea sick was most memorable! Perhaps the the hardest thing for me was to not know if the time spent with my child was really helping the child to navigate through life in a better way. I guess one may never know, but one just hopes so!


5

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Being a CASA not only enriches the life of a foster youth, it enriches the life of the CASA.

As a CASA, you have something wonderful to offer the youth... your presence and your acceptance of him or her "as is." You are not getting paid to be there; you want to be there.

I had the privilege of "being there" for a young teen, who is now a prospering young adult. It wasn't always easy; there were many bumps in the road. Yet today, she tells me that my presence in her life really made a difference. She says, "You were the only one who visited me in Juvenile Hall. I always knew that you cared about me. You were MY CASA. You never put me down. You held me in your heart and I will always hold you in mine."

CASA of Sonoma County has a wonderful support staff, excellent training and an extraordinary commitment to helping the most vulnerable members of our community, our "kids"!

4

Former staff

Rating: 5

Sonoma CASA is amazing organization that focuses on supporting and encouraging foster youth as they maneuver the foster care system. The CASA staff are knowledgeable about the court and foster care system and provide continuous support to the volunteers.

5

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CASA of Sonoma Co. is a key component of the Juvenile Court System of our county. The program provides a consistent adult connection for foster children. This consistent adult is a volunteer who donates his/her time to advocate for these foster kids in the courtroom, classroom and community...making a difference!

6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with CASA as a volunteer for over 20 years . I have had many rewarding relationships with children, families, community workers, CASA staff and volunteers. I feel that CASA provides a voice for many children who otherwise would not have trained and caring advocates outside of their families and government professionals. When we help children, we help better the future for all of our family and the world. CASA has many dedicated workers and volunteers who believe in helping as many children in need as we possibly can. CASA warms my soul.