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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

41 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!)

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.

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