“When I was going through so many placements, failing in school and left in the children’s shelter for 5 months, I never thought I was going to leave. The only person who visited me was my CASA. She made me feel better every time I would see her. Having a CASA means someone will always have your back, they will not judge you. They just show up. CASA gave me hope. My CASA helped build a team at school to improve my grades and my behavior. She taught me that “I” was the most important person on my team. Thanks to the CASA program, I am ready to succeed in school and life.” ~ Madison Staples – Foster Youth in our CASA Program.
Now a junior in high school, Madison bravely and generously shared her story with a group of CASA supporters as our special guest speaker at the 2017 CAPC Golf Classic. “My mom died when I was 7-years-old and I went to live with my grandma, who struggles with alcoholism. After living with her for 5 years, Child Protective Services removed me from my grandma’s care. I was placed in foster care at the age of 12 and the judge appointed me a CASA. Cathy has done so much for me – being the most consistent and reliable adult in my life while I’ve been placed in so many difference placements – more than I can count, but well over 15. During a 5 month stay at the Children’s shelter, the only person who visited me was Cathy. She gives me HOPE.
To me, a CASA means “someone who will have your back.” Being moved around from home to home and in so many different schools, I had a tough time focusing. They put me on a special needs bus. I couldn’t think straight. Cathy made “TEAM MADISON” happen and my life started to change. In 8th grade, when I had no hope at all for my future, Cathy made sure I had an IEP (Independent Education Plan) in place. I now have a 2.9 GPA and a newfound hope to succeed in school. I have goals of my own now – to become a veterinarian and a CASA. It feels SO good knowing someone out there has my back (Cathy) and doesn’t judge me.” ~ Madison.
According to Madison’s teachers, she is a “self-advocate” and a “leader with her peers.” Since she has had a CASA, EVERY teacher of hers says she is a “leader,” according to Cathy.
“Life is not fair to these kids. They did not pick their circumstances but are victims of a lot of trauma. When they get a CASA, they are finally heard and noticed. Walking side by side, week by week seeing the potential and the growth of these kids is important work for me personally. CASA has provided me the training and resources to help Madison find her own voice, filled with confidence. Her teachers at school call her “a leader”. Being a part of this transition, has been a blessing. Madison now has her OWN voice.” ~ Cathy Soohoo, CASA
Child Advocates of Placer County (CAPC) has three main programs of operation. The first and largest program, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), matches an abused, abandoned, and/or neglected child with an adult volunteer who can speak on behalf of the child when his or her needs aren’t met. These children are often removed from their homes for safety reasons, but the goal is to eventually reunite the child with his or her parents when court orders have been met.
The Youth Mentor Program places an adult mentor with a middle school aged child or former foster youth in need of guidance. They meet once a week for about six months.
CAPC’s Family Mentor Program helps parents build life skills to prepare them to reunite with their child. When a child is placed back with his or her parents after being in the foster care system, within three years that child will likely go back to foster care. CAPC’s program teaches parents how to cook, budget and care for their children in hopes to keep that family together and avoid that likelihood. This program serves about 25 parents per year.
There are many people who believe these parents don’t deserve a second chance, but studies prove that it’s in the kids’ best interest to be back with their parents, so long as they are safe and their needs are being met, of course.
CAPC has over 200 volunteers working in these programs. Each volunteer receives 35 hours of training, which includes observing court cases, taking an oath before a judge and learning to navigate heavy topics. Children that come into the system face problems like parental substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, homelessness, sex trafficking, neglect and poverty.
Having volunteers working with children is crucial, because it shows children that someone cares about them even though that person is not being paid.
Many of these children have seen some pretty horrible things and have experienced trauma – it plants a seed of hope that not every adult has made these mistakes or does these terrible things. For more information on volunteer opportunities with Child Advocates of Placer County, visit www.casaplacer.org.