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2015 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Cruz County

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Administration of Justice, Child Abuse Prevention, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Crime & Law, Domestic Violence, Protection Against Abuse

Mission: CASA is a child’s voice in dependency court, providing advocacy, stability, and hope to children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.

Results: Since 1992 we have served over 1,500 children in Santa Cruz County. Our volunteers give over 12,750 hours of service each year for our children. In 2010 we completed renovation of our new permanent home in Watsonville. At "CASA's casa" we provide a warm, welcoming, homelike environment where our advocates can meet with their assigned child, play games, complete art projects, or prepare meals in our kitchen.

Target demographics: Children, aged birth to 21 years old, who are in the dependency court and foster care system due to neglect or abuse. In 2010, 52% were male. 57% were Latino, 32% Caucasian, and 8% African American.

Direct beneficiaries per year: In 2014 we provided 218 children with a Volunteer Advocate to lift up their voice.

Geographic areas served: Santa Cruz County, California

Programs: Court appointed special advocates of santa cruz county (casa) is a nonprofit organization incorporated in the state of california in 1992. The organization recruits, trains, and supervises advocates appointed by the dependency court to provide a voice for children who have experienced abuse or neglect and are in the foster care system. Casa's volunteers also assist in ensuring that the health, educational, and permanency needs of these children are met. In the fiscal year 2014-2015, casa provided 226 children with a volunteer advocate and trained 86 new volunteers to be advocates. We had 614 visits to the casa house by children with their advocates. We provided 20 "continuing education" workshops or events with our volunteers. Casa is supported primarily through public and private grants and donor contributions.

Community Stories

50 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1 Heather52

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CASA Santa Cruz is an amazing program. As a volunteer, we get some of the best training I've ever received. The staff are not only supportive, they provide fun things volunteers can do to help CASA and hang out. But of course, the biggest thing is how dedicated everyone involved in this program is to helping the foster youth of our county. Everyone works tirelessly to help these kids out - education, clothing, special needs that come up, help with placement, everything. I've never been so impressed with a non-profit, and I've been involved with many (and even ran one for a few years!)

Lynne Kohn A.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CASA of Santa Cruz County is remarkable. It is an organization that supports children and their advocates to the fullest - from intensive training at the beginning to continued support in the months/years to follow. I have been with CASA as an advocate for almost 20 years. My "CASA child" is now 31. Children who have been abused/neglected and spend years in different foster care homes need caring volunteers that will be constant in their lives. Consider supporting this wonderful organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been associated with CASA of Santa Cruz County for 15 years. I became an advocate because I wanted to give back to the community in a way that would help children. This was the perfect opportunity. Over the years I have volunteered in the office but my most important role was that of being an advocate for four children in the CPS/Foster Care system. I feel that I made a very positive contribution to their lives. CASA is a wonderful, caring organization that provides training and support to those that want to become an advocate.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a volunteer for CASA for about 7 years. They are the most dedicated, passionate non-profit group ever! They run a very professional, well organized agency and it shows in the amount of successful Advocates and foster kids that they team up. The staff is very supportive to their volunteers and they receive that support back from each contributor as well as from the community. They offer a lot of support to their Advocates as well, so they can help their CASA kids in many ways. It is a win-win group!

lynnhawk

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As an advocate and "friend of CASA" for the past 20+ years, and after many volunteer gigs, I would say that CASA is absolutely the best organization I have ever worked with. The work they do is so valuable. Foster kids are the neediest kids in our county and CASA of Santa Cruz Co. does so much for them in order to make their lives as normal as is possible. They throw holiday parties, make sure they get Christmas gifts, birthday gifts and cake, prom dresses, school pictures, soccer shoes, etc. etc. They really make a difference in their lives. They become a friend who listens to them and someone these kids can lean on. I have never felt more rewarded. Watching the grin on the face of a 12 yr. old coloring an Easter egg for the first time did it for me!If you want to work with a group of really caring people, then this is the group for you,

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Best organization I have ever worked with. You really feel you have made a difference in a child's life. I can't say enough!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been an advocate with CASA of Santa Cruz County for 6 years. I absolutely love this organization. They exist simply to make the lives of foster children better and they succeed on a daily basis. There is nothing that compares to seeing a broken child start to heal after being given the support and love they need during a traumatic time in their lives. CASA of S.C. Co. operates in a professional manner and goes to great lengths to make sure the advocates know how much they are appreciated. I highly recommend them!

June4

Donor

Rating: 5

I was in CASA's very first class of advocates in 1993. I learned about CASA when the late Judge Black spoke at my Rotary Club about the organization coming to Santa Cruz County. I had worked with foster kids at Camp Opportunity, but felt I could make an ever bigger impact as an advocate. My first case was a 5-year old girl who loved to go to the park. One day when she wanted to go on the monkey bars but was afraid, I walked with her underneath the bars, and she felt safe. For me, that was symbolic of how I walked with her throughout her years in the foster care system. Over 25 years later, I am still in contact with her.
After the organization was established, I acted as one of CASA's first "Ambassadors," and helped spread out the word to the community. The news about the organization had to start somewhere, and I feel blessed to be a part of that movement. I recently joined CASA's Legacy Society; my gift will help make sure that this much needed organization can continue on.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I learned about CASA when the late Judge Black came to my Rotary Club and announced that the organization was starting in Santa Cruz and volunteers would be needed. The idea that I could make a difference in the life of a child struck a chord in my heart. It seemed like the right time for me, because I didn't have grandchildren yet.

I am proud to say that I was in the first graduating class and it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life because being among the first advocates was a scary thing, I will continue to help CASA with their important work in every way that I can.

Donor

Rating: 5

My husband and several friends have all been CASA volunteers. They loved their volunteer work for CASA it made them feel useful Each person felt that they had made a big impact on the lives of children they served.They also told me and tell me how wonderful and supportive the CASA staff is in supporting the work of its volunteers. I have lived in this town for many years and CASA enjoys the enthusiasm and support of many in our community
, Clearly CASA must be doing something right. I would urge everyone who is able to to join CASA as a volunteer and/or supporter

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Amidst a sea of stellar local non-profits, CASA of Santa Cruz County stands out personally because it allows me, and many others in our community, to invest time and talent into the most deserving members imaginable: youth who've been victimized by abuse and neglect, taken from their homes through no fault of their own.
After working on behalf of adolescents and teens for most of my career, I made a conscious choice well before retirement that, once my career wound down, I would pursue being trained as a CASA advocate, and be able to serve formally on behalf of a youth in our county whose life has been altered by being part of the dependency care system.
As we age, I firmly believe that many adults indeed forget what it was like to be young. As a society, we cannot afford to lost sight of our obligation to serve the neediest among us. Foster Youth deserved the very best we have to offer. What's within YOU that a young person could benefit from knowing? Expertise, patience, optimism, TIME? In getting to know CASA you will get to know aspects of yourself that may have lain dormant for years or decades. I am proud to serve as an advocate and urge anyone reading this to get to know CASA of Santa Cruz County.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization has been an important part of my life for the last 6 years! I served on its board and most recently as a volunteer advocate for a 4 year old. I feel like I know this organization well and have been so impressed with the important work that it does for children in foster care who have suffered trauma due to abuse and or neglect. I was also greatly impressed by the high functioning board and staff. It is without a doubt a top notch non profit and does a great service for our community.

Maria166

Volunteer

Rating: 1

Hola soy María Virgen estoy interesada en ser voluntaria de esta programa inglés not is perfecto . He trabajado con niños más de 10 años

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

CASA and their advocates are lifesavers for families. What an awesome agency we have been blessed with.

1 lynda.leigh1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There is no better organization than CASA Santa Cruz! It's a win-win-win for kiddos who have been removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse, volunteer advocates who spend time with kiddos, and the community which benefits from healthy relationships as a result.
The staff is supportive and caring of kids and advocates. Please consider lending your time and spirit to CASA Santa Cruz.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Cruz County deserves to be recognized for the outstanding
support of children and families it provides. I have never been involved with such a dedicated, efficient and caring organization that puts kids first. As a retired teacher I saw the benefits firsthand to my students in foster care. As a volunteer I experience the benefits to everyone when children are prioritized.

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1

Board Member

Rating: 5

CASA of Santa Cruz County is a very special organization. The staff and numerous volunteers support and advocate for local children who have been abused or neglected. It is emotional and deeply transformative work. The difference they make in the lives of local kids who have a really hard go at life is remarkable. The people who make up the organization are incredible human beings who work with harmony, efficiency, and competency. The impact they make and the authentic caring peopole they are moved me to not only make significant financial contributions but to also proudly participate as a board member. You will be hard-pressed to find a non-profit that is more professionally run and locally impactful.

2 CASAfan

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been on a number of non-profit boards, and this one is by far the most focused and best run, with a clear mission and accountability measures to monitor progress toward goal. We leverage the power of volunteers to provide the most vulnerable children in our community with a much needed voice in dependency court and the crucial decisions that affect their lives. CASA is unusual among local non-profits in its financial solvency, both currently and for the future. I attribute this to the strength of the staff and staff leadership, as well as the organization's laser-like focus on its contained but critical mission.

2 Terry69

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with CASA of Santa Cruz County this past year and was deeply impressed with the leadership team and staff. They demonstrated firm accountability, solid business management and focus alongside the obvious passion and care for the children they serve day in and day out. I have volunteered with and served on the board of many non-profits: few exhibit the ability to match their love of the work with such astute business management.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 2

I have worked with CASA of SC County for years. Children in their program studied martial arts at my studio. CASA was accountable every time for every child. The child's well-being was the priority...always. I've recently run the Wharf to Wharf for CASA....what a great organization!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Can't believe the lives this organization changes during such a difficult time of life. ABSOLUTELY LOVE everything they do yo support the children and volunteers.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CASA of Santa Cruz is a truly amazing organization. We recruit, train and place volunteers to provide hope and stability for children and youth in the foster care system.

1 Cita R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been involved with a lot of non-profits over the years. Never have I been involved with an organization that has so much integrity and heart. They are thoughtful stewards with donors' time and money. As a volunteer, this is one of the most fulfilling and important things I've ever been able to do. My life is forever changed by the girl I was able to serve.

Florence4

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The good that this organization does and the great, caring staff, volunteers and board is immeasurable.

Previous Stories
1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am part of Friends of CASA, an auxiliary of CASA that helps raise funds to specifically help CASA children in the foster care system. CASA is a much needed and valuable asset to our foster youth and to the advocates who selflessly offer their time and care to support these children. The staff, Board of Directors, advocates, Friends, and everyone involved with CASA are dedicated to helping these children through a very difficult time.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I could go on for days about CASA, what it provides these wonderful children and the service to the community.
I have been an advocate for ten years, and my involvement with this organization has truly been the most valuable and rewarding experience of my life. There is no doubt in my mind that the advocates play a major role in the positive outcome of these children's futures. Not only have I learned a great deal about the challenges these children and their families face everyday, but I have also learned to be more objective and not judgmental. My compassionate side has grown enormously. I know I have received more than I have given by having the privilege of knowing these children. CASA has and always will have a very special place in my heart.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am volunteer Advocate for a teen-ager. I can attest that the CASA organization, and the commitment of its volunteers, truly change the lives of children in foster care.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Nine years ago when my husband and I were foster parents in charge of a two-year, a volunteer from CASA visited our home. For over a year, the volunteer visited the child every week. She took the girl to the park, on parental visits, and out for ice cream. She became an adult friend during a time of uncertainty. In a difficult time, a CASA volunteer made a positive impact. I am indebted to CASA and it's volunteers forever.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I can't recommend this nonprofit highly enough. I have worked with this organization since its inception and can assure you of the high standards maintained of volunteers and staff, and the loyalty and devotion of our volunteers. Over 200 children currently benefit from the weekly contact with our volunteers, and today, more volunteers than ever before are signing up to work with another child if their child's life situation improves to the point of emancipation.

Gail17

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The staff of CASA of Santa Cruz County are dedicated to the children who are served by them. They are a respectful, professional, talented group of individuals who are responsive to the needs of the community who is served. The CASA house on Freedom Boulevard acts as a warm and loving "home" for the children. The staff plays an integral role in providing this warm, loving and friendly respite for the Advocates and the children. I find that every time I am in the house I walk away with a renewed motivation to continue my volunteer work with CASA.
Gail Levine, Felton, CA

Melanie22

Board Member

Rating: 5

For years in my capacity as a therapist and social worker I was very aware of the value of the
CASA program. Children who were in the child welfare system were blessed by being matched
with a compassionate and well trained volunteer. Many years later I was invited to provide a team
building workshop for the staff and board. I was so impressed by the members, the collaborate spirit
and there commitment to the children in our community. That day the board president asked if I was
interested in being a member and I said yes. The reason I said yes is because this board and staff are some of the most involved, passionate and committed group I have worked with. I am honored to be a part of this organization and to make a difference to the many children in need.

Jacqueline M.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

A great team helping so many children improve their lives and acheive so much.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have always felt an affinity for young girls and young women who struggle without a strong female presence in their lives. CASA provides the opportunity for me to give as well as to receive. I spend several hours a week with a CASA girl and we are able to talk and to do things that she ordinarily would not be able to do in an open and totally non-judgmental way. We just let the day unfold and follow what comes our way. I like to provide a space for her that is all about HER, what she wants to do and let her make decisions as to how we will spend our day. Recently, my CASA girl told me that she felt that the two of us just got along from the first day we met, and that she remembers every thing that we have done since that day. She tells me that she waits all week long for our Saturdays together. Please consider becoming a CASA. The simple joys are overwhelming.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

tHIS is the most rewarding experience of my life. After retiring as a Travel Agent, I volunteered as an assistant at the local hospital and found that it was more like a job and didn't satisfy my needs as a volunteer. When I was introduced to the advocacy program by a friend I became very interested in working with the children. Having three children of my own grown and gone, and grandchildren living mostly out of state, the tendency to help the youngsters with their needs after being abused and neglected . The training was extensive and I learned so much more to be helpful in guiding me to help . Ongoing training is offered if you have a particular problem with a case. You are supervised by people who have been in the nonprofits for years and are much appreciated by the advocates. I have worked on 4 cases since my swearing in as an advocate (2003) and was recently called back into service for a child I worked with 5 years ago. She is 11 now and is back in the system. We have a new relationship since she is entering her teen years, She seems almost adult and we are working on getting her kid days back. We will see how the court handles this one. I do love the help from the social workers, lawyers, supervisors,the staff at the Casa House, everyone I am contact with are anxious to inform help me support my Casa kid. That is all worth the time and energy spent. Saving the kids are first and foremost the objectives of all my associates in the advocacy program. For that I am appreciative and will continue to service the children.

Joseph9

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working with foster youth is rewarding for the youth and for you--the volunteer. CASA's training is outstanding and the support continues. I can't imagine doing anything more rewarding or beneficial.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a manager with a local social service agency for over 20 years I’m well aware of the many barriers foster children face. When I started thinking about retirement becoming a CASA volunteer was at the top of my list. CASA of Santa Cruz County is a terrific organization with a great staff providing excellent support and training for advocates as well as maintaining strong ties to the local Children’s Protective Services agency and other community agencies.
As a CASA advocate I’ve been the only consistent person in my child’s life for over five years. I’ve had excellent relations with his social workers and other professional staff over the years and am always impressed by how CASA is respected by the courts and how my recommendations have been accepted and made a difference in his life. Vivian Brown, Santa Cruz

Volunteer

Rating: 5

We know that children are the future of our world. As a CASA, I feel that I can contribute a tiny bit to our collective future. To see small changes in children, a light in their eyes, an understanding of the larger world, a level of trust where there has been little in the past ... this is what keeps me coming back, case after case (4 children in 10 years). Plus, I have learned so much about the legal and social services systems in my county ... a personal educational benefit.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love being a CASA. It's such a tangible way to make an amazing difference in the lives of kids in my community. Not only do I feel more knowledgeable from all the training I received, I feel like I am actually making a difference in my kid's life!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a CASA, I try to be the eyes and ears for the judge as much as possible, to help find the best permanent solution for a child that has ended up being in "the system"(often meaning in foster care). I also try to create a special time when my child and I are together, doing things that are otherwise lacking, whether sports, biking, art, singing or eating out. The child can learn to trust again, and hopefully can develop a good vision for the future. Just when you think that your falling in love with a CASA kid, was because he/she is so special, you fall in love with the next one. That's because they are all so special as we discover, and so lovable.The staff of CASA is wonderfully supportive, and the training is great.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Becoming an advocate for CASA of Santa Cruz County is one of the best things I've ever done. The experienced and knowledgeable staff make the experience much more rewarding as they are available to assist the volunteers every step of the way. The volunteers have ample supervision and guidance to make them more effective advocates for the children in the program. I am proud to be a CASA volunteer as we are able to be the voice in court for these children. We also have the ability to become mentors and positive influences in their lives. I truly believe I am making a difference in my child's life, and that makes me feel very good.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CASA of Santa Cruz County serves Foster Youth in our County by serving as advocates for at risk Foster Children. We meet with our CASA child weekly and report to Dependency Court on the status of our child. CASA of Santa Cruz County is a well run and professional organization that provides exceptional service to our Foster Youth.

Donor

Rating: 5

Santa Cruz Chapter of CASAis helping more children than ever in our county who need the help of a CASA Advocate while the child is in the court system due to abuse or neglect. We are sure if we stabilize these children that our county will have fewer criminals & jail/prison inmates in the future. Every child deserves a chance in y=this world.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Advocates, Board and staff of CASA of Santa Cruz are a truly inspirational group as demonstrated by their caring, hard work and dedication to the children they serve. My role as a volunteer for CASA has been through their Friends of CASA group. The money we raise for the Children's Fund is used by the advocates for the special needs of their child. These needs are as varied as a bicycle, tutoring, money for a school trip, music lessons, school pictures or whatever that advocate deems would make a difference to that particular child. Every volunteer hour I have put in over the past several years has only increased my respect for this group and their constant focus on the children's well-being.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been the advocate for a now 15 year old girl for about 18 months. She is the oldest of 4 children and is struggling with the idea that her mom cannot appropriately take care of them. I have watched her these months change from being smart and funny and suspicious and guarded and confused to smart and funny and outspoken and trusting. Last week when she got some probably unexpected news from the court, she ran away from school and got a ride 30 miles to Grandma's house. She was surprised when I told her I understood her fears and her actions, but that she could trust her team - and could have just asked to see Grandma. She gave me a huge (rare) hug and has really opened up about her feelings. It's amazing to see her grow into a thoughtful young woman who knows it's okay to have conflicting feelings and that her future is not defined by her past. I have no doubt that the whole team at CASA has made a huge difference in this girl's life. She is now talking about doing things that didn't seem possible to her before-- what an amazing experience it has been to watch her grow!!!

Stephanie56

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I had three foster children beginning in 1998. My first a teenage girl, freshman in high school. She was shipped in between 5 foster homes. I stayed with her four years.She did graduated from high school and is now a wonderful mother of 3.My second child was placed in a group care home at the age of 6 (couldn't believe it). I was with her for a little over a year. She was adopted by wonderful people. Last but not least is a young boy who was about 7 when we got together. His parents both had drug problems, mother gone, father jailed. He was adopted by a wonderful family. I am still with him even though he is adopted. His new parents asked if I could stay on with him and I am so happy to do so. All of my kids gave me much more than I gave them. Only reason I am not an active CASA now is I'm so actively involved in my last child's life.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

acy:I have been an Advocate for four foster youth (twice for one of the children) for about eight years. Without a doubt volunteering as a CASA advocate has been a life changing experience for me. Spending time with these kids has been rewarding, inspiring and at times heart breaking. CASA of Santa Cruz has a wonderful, nurturing staff and and an exceptionally hard working, involved Board of Directors. Advocating for these children is supported not only by the CASA staff, but by the court system, social workers, teachers, therapists and many others who have direct involvement with these children. I cannot imagine myself not continuing to be involved in some capacity for many years to come. Working with CASA to advocate for our foster youth is where I am supposed to be.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I got involved with CASA of Santa Cruz 20 years ago and I have seen this non-profit develop and grow into the amazing organization that it is today. When children have CASA advocates, they have the support of well-trained volunteers who can help them get the care they need through the dependency process and beyond. The advocates work with the social workers, the foster parents. the lawyers and the Dependency Judge to determine the proper placement for these children. As a person who has seen the many sides of CASA, as a past Board member and as a current community volunteer, I can truly say that Santa Cruz is a better place for children and families because of CASA. I should also mention that my husband is a retired Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge and California Appellate Court Justice; from his judicial experience, he also knows the value of CASA of Santa Cruz County to our community, our families and, most importantly, to our children.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Casa is an amazing organization that really helps the most vulnerable children in our community. I was a teacher for23 years and had needy children in my classroom so I decided to volunteer on a individual basis with one child when I retired. Not only did I make a difference in the child's life, but I was supported so much by CASA and the support staff they have who work with you. I was a court appointed special advocate for a 16 year old, she is now 21 and finishing her college degree. She is the first in her family to go to college and I think having someone to talk to and know how much she was cared for made a difference. Presently I work as an investigator for children in Child Protective Services and when I ask them if they have a CASA there's always a smile and they tell me all of the wonderful things they have done with their CASA. It's a fantastic organization and