CASA volunteers show up, speak up for Yolo County foster children

“Local volunteer Maggie Sanger with former foster youth Payton Hensley. Maggie was Payton’s CASA volunteer for eight years and they still remain close today. Courtesy photo

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Yolo County is home to hundreds of foster children that need and deserve someone to advocate for them. Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA is a national association designed to support and serve as the child’s voice. Tracy Fauver (Executive Director), Kirsten Ferries, (Outreach Coordinator), Vanessa Errecarte (Management and Marketing Consultant) and several dedicated volunteers including, Maureen Carson and Mike Rockwell are passionate about the CASA program and feel lucky to be part of it.  Children within the foster care system are exposed to lawyers, social workers, foster homes and communities that are constantly changing.  One of the CASA volunteers shared about how one CASA student was just over 15 years old when they first met, and is now just turning 18 and going off to college. The volunteer hopes to attend future college sporting events. “Since I have been his CASA advocate he has been in two or three foster homes and he has changed schools, social workers, lawyers and communities several times,” the volunteer said. A CASA volunteer is the only stable person in the life of a foster child. A CASA advocate is responsible for meeting with their designated foster child on a regular basis (at least once a week) and ensures the education, mental and physical needs of the child are being taken care of.  “The biggest surprise for me is when I discovered that a social worker’s role isn’t to be focused on the child. A social worker’s role is to focus on the biological parents of the child, so that they can be reunited with their children,” said Ferries. “It is the CASA advocate’s role to focus on the child.” “Show up! Speak up!” is the motto that Ferries lives by when caring for her CASA child. The Yolo County CASA organization is equipped to take on a total of 80 new CASA volunteers per year. Ferries was excited to announce that the Winter 2020 Yolo County CASA training has been filled and that the goal is to fill the remaining three training session blocks. April 13 is the next available training date with a registration deadline of April 3. “Volunteers are not just thrown into taking on a CASA case. Every volunteer has to fulfill a certain number of hours in training and we sit in on a court hearing before we are even given a case,” explained Rockwell.  Children within the foster system all have different stories and different levels of trauma. It is imperative and of utmost importance that the CASA association properly trains their volunteers so that they can feel prepared when they finally get to select their case.  “The training was amazing and I really felt prepared coming out of it. If it’s in your heart and you have an inkling…just do it!” urged Carson.  There are so many children in need. As a CASA Advocate, once a volunteer has finished their training they are given a number of files to go through and they are able to select the child they would like to work with based on age, location, gender and various other factors.  “We have a wide range of volunteers. We have volunteers who are retired. We have students. We have those who are working. Anyone over 21 can be a CASA Advocate,” explained Rockwell.  Being the voice and being consistent is just the beginning of what CASA advocates offer to the children they serve. Errecarte explained that CASA advocates have told her that when their CASA child discovers that their advocate chose them, and only them, they are mystified. It is incomprehensible that there is someone in their life is solely committed to them. Errecarte went on to explain that, what the average person sees as rudimentary to children outside of the foster system is unfathomable to the children within the system. Children within the system are being removed from their homes, classrooms and communities on a regular basis and often miss out on their childhood.  “As a mother, it still touches my heart when I hear the reaction that children have when they learn that their CASA chose them,” emanated Errecarte.  Fauver has been with the CASA association since 2004. She has been a CASA advocate, organized fundraisers and is now an Executive Director of Yolo County CASA. With over 16 years of service, it is evident that being a CASA advocate is a powerful and gratifying experience. CASA advocates make a difference in the lives of children within the community. These children are so deserving of having someone to fight for them. To speak for them. To advocate for them, so that they can obtain the resources and support that they need to have the exceptional life that they so desperately deserve. ]]>

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