Los Angeles has a massive challenge caring for the 30,000 foster youth in the system, helping children forced into a role that can be terrifying and unstable. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Los Angeles provides services, attention, and advocacy that can drastically improve, and even save, the lives of foster children. CASAs are appointed by a judge to what are oftentimes the direst cases: children with prior maltreatment or contact with child welfare, cases of extreme abuse or neglect, or those where there
is a great level of risk of further abuse and neglect. Many children assigned to CASA have learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and significant emotional and mental health problems.
When FIDM's Director of Content, Kim Askew, isn't busy overseeing the content development for FIDM's website, print, and digital marketing initiatives, she volunteers as a trained CASA in her spare time. In this role, Kim works with everyone that touches a child's life, from their social worker and educator to their doctor, with a goal of giving that child a life path that will help them to succeed. We recently chatted with Kim to learn more about her unique role as a CASA.
When and why did you decide to become a CASA volunteer? I had heard about the CASA program for a while, but decided to wait until I'd finished my graduate degree so that I could really focus on the program.
What was the process like of becoming approved? It's a pretty rigorous process involving interviews and 40 hours of training, but it's so worth it to gain the experience and knowledge before leaping in.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of being a CASAS volunteer? You appear in children's court at least every six months to advocate for your child. The judges really value the CASA perspective, so that's a time and place where you can truly accomplish things for your child. You also spend time getting to know your CASA kid, and that's the most rewarding of all.
What are some of the challenges of serving as a CASA? It's time consuming, and the court dates are during regular office hours. Children in the foster system are moved around quite often, so it can be frustrating trying to make a difference. All the changes are so worth it though.
If someone is interested in being a CASA volunteer, what would you tell them? It is a highly supported program in which you can truly impact the lives of children in our community. It requires time and commitment.
The statistics for foster youth in Los Angeles are disturbing. Of youths that age out of the foster system:
* Less than half will have a high school diploma or GED.
* Half will be unemployed.
* One in four will have been incarcerated, primarily for prostitution and/or drug offenses.
* At least 40 percent will have been homeless for some period of time.
* One in four will have become a parent before the age of 20.
CASAs greatly help to avoid these outcomes, and while not every case has a happy ending, the odds dramatically improve when a child has a CASA. This year, CASA will serve 1,000 foster children with intensive advocacy services, but more volunteers and more support is needed. If you're interested in learning more about getting involved, visit CASA of Los Angeles.
Categories: Giving, Interview
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