We are excited to share with you our updates about our new CEO, continued growth in 2016 in service to children in the foster care system across our state, a new song for CASA, an update on progress of a successful CASA volunteer recruitment campaign in counties of Northern California, and much more!

As always, we thank you for your vital support of California CASA Association, the work we do to support 44 CASA programs in 50 counties across the state, and our mission to provide advocacy for all foster youth and children in California.

We invite you to please forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues by using the "Forward this Email" link at the very bottom of this email.
California CASA CEO Transitions

 
California CASA recently bid a fond farewell to our former CEO, John Lipp. John provided outstanding leadership during his tenure with us, and we wish him well in his new adventures.

 
We are very pleased to share that Sharon Lawrence, Esq. will serve as our new CEO, starting November 1. Sharon comes to California CASA from the position of President/CEO of Voices for Children (VFC), the CASA program for San Diego and Riverside Counties. Over the past two decades, Sharon has led and developed the organization into one that is the largest in California and recognized as one of the top three CASA programs in the nation. VFC currently serves more than 3,300 foster children, and the number of children served has tripled during the past seven years. Sharon has deep experience in all facets of CASA leadership and management and the child welfare system within which we all work.

Sharon is excited about the upcoming transition to California CASA. She stated, "I am so proud of Voices for Children and the work that our CASAs and staff do every day to help boys and girls in foster care. I leave Voices for Children in good hands-led by an extraordinary Board of Directors and a brilliant staff of 75 individuals committed to making life better for foster children in San Diego and Riverside Counties. I believe that California CASA is an organization poised for growth, and I look forward to expanding my service to foster children across California through my new statewide role. My vision is that California CASA will be an effective partner for all of the state's local CASA programs in ways that will enhance their growth and development."

Until Sharon begins her tenure in November, our interim CEO Mim Carlson and our Oakland-based staff will continue to provide services and support to the California network. Mim was our Interim CEO before John Lipp's hiring, and we are pleased and grateful we have her leadership again to keep us moving forward. Please feel free to contact Mim with any questions about the CEO transition at California CASA. She can be reached at 510-663-8440, ext. 1.
CASA Service in California Continues to Grow

We are thrilled to report that CASA programs across the state maintained more than 7% growth (7.7%) in service to children in 2016! More than 4,500 new children and a total of nearly 13,000 children in foster care were provided with the advocacy of a CASA volunteer. The number of CASA volunteers grew by 6% to 7,953 in 2016, and these dedicated advocates provided 629,658 volunteer hours, valued at $15,199,944.
 
The source of this data is the National CASA Association Annual Local Program Survey completed in March, administered this year for the first time by California CASA Association. We are grateful to all of the local program staff for completing the survey and working with us as we continue to determine the best methodology and platform for administering a survey of this size.
Number of Children Served 2010 to 2016

 

CASA Leadership Profile: Karen Schaefer

Vivacious and personable, Karen Schaefer has been in social services since 1999. She now serves as the Regional Program Director for CASA of Butte, Glenn, Shasta, and Tehama Counties. Karen has spent a total of 18 years within the CASA programs' umbrella organization, Northern Valley Catholic Social Service, Inc. (NVCSS), first working with pregnant and parenting teens, homeless families, mentally ill homeless, and managing an Independent Living Program for foster youth. As Karen shared, the challenges foster youth face have always "pulled on the heart strings", so it's no surprise that she would go on to grow existing CASA programs and establish a new one, in Tehama County, in 2014.

 
Karen and the CASA programs she leads are resilient and resourceful, and make great use of their modest budget. Staff manage the CASA volunteers in Glenn and Tehama Counties, and use the peer coordinator model in Shasta and Butte Counties. The peer coordinator model, favored by many CASA programs, enlists seasoned CASA volunteers to supervise fellow volunteers and help guide them in their volunteer service. The programs have a total of 14 peer coordinators.

Thanks to recent funding from the Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA), Karen and her team were able to hire an Outreach Coordinator, whose work has resulted in a marked increase in volunteer inquiries and volunteers trained. In fact, they're swearing in 19 new CASA volunteers in late May, taking the total number of CASA volunteers between the four programs to 132.

The influx of volunteers comes at a time when the number of children brought into foster care is rapidly growing. "The numbers are growing in the area," said Karen, "there's a higher percentage of drug use and the heroin epidemic is hitting us hard. In Shasta County, for example, we would have 15-40 children coming into dependency (foster care) each month, and now the average is 40-60 children. And, in Tehama County, the average number of children in dependency annually was 220 and now that's up to 350."

Karen Schafer's decision to devote her career to those most vulnerable reflects her upbringing; her parents' encouragement to help others. "These children are in foster care at no fault of their own, and if I can do something to make a difference in a kid's life, that's what I should be doing." Karen's passion for helping others is well known in her community, and the program's renown continues to grow, thanks, in part, to the annual Super Hero Run. The fundraiser hosted 1,500 "Super Hero" runners last year, between the two runs held in Chico and Redding. We know that for Karen Schaefer and her team, the challenges ahead require the planned pace of a marathon runner, but that they will continue to grow, persevere, and give more foster youth in their region the much-needed advocacy CASA volunteers provide.
Programs Receive Training   on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC)

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On May 1, California CASA with support from Zellerbach Foundation, presented a training for CASA program staff and volunteers on the pervasive and devastating challenges faced by foster youth involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Presenters Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman from the California Child Welfare Survivors Advisory Board and Elizabeth Longfellow from MISSS EY gave an overview of the extent of the problem, including how foster youth are often targeted for exploitation, and how difficult it can be for children to escape from this exploitation.

They also covered ways that CASA volunteers can support CSEC youth and help keep youth safe from exploitation. Feedback from attendees reflected that the presenters were knowledgeable, compelling, and gave extremely valuable and helpful information.

California CASA is grateful to the Zellerbach Foundation for their ongoing support of training opportunities for CASA in the Bay Area.

 



Mark Your Calendar: California CASA Association Training

Understanding Grief and Loss in Youth in Foster Care

Wednesday, June 14, 9AM-3:30PM in Oakland. Free for CASA Volunteers and CASA Program Staff.

The trauma of being separated from loved ones and everything familiar is devastating for youth in foster care.
The loss and grief our children experience is profound and lasting, and this is further compounded by their lack of choice in the process.

This training is designed to increase the staff member or volunteer's understanding and strategies to help youth process, cope, and eventually integrate their experiences of grief and loss. Our presenter is Beverly Kyer, MSW, ACSW. Beverly has been a speaker and educator for more than 30 years, specializing in PTSD; the impact of trauma on brain development; behavior and learning in children, youth, and adults; and vicarious trauma. Her participatory training style creates an interactive and collaborative learning environment.

Learn the stages, triggers, and reactions to grief in children and ourselves:
  • How to help your youth manage and move through grief
  • Honoring grief as a natural process and healing as an ongoing process
  • Methods to promote phases of healing
This training is generously funded by the Zellerbach Family Foundation, and is free to active CASA volunteers and CASA program staff throughout California.
  
Questions? Email Janel Brown at jbrown@californiacasa.org

CASA Network Rallies for #NationalFosterCareMonth

To celebrate #NationalFosterCareMonth in May, California CASA launched its second annual statewide campaign titled "I Volunteer Because" to raise awareness of the CASA mission. The social media-based campaign called on programs to post photos of their advocates holding up signs that completed the statement: "I Volunteer Because". The campaign was met with great enthusiasm again this year, and CASA programs from Del Norte and Humboldt in the north, to Imperial County in the south have rallied to show their CASA pride.

 
To encourage participation, California CASA offered weekly incentives, and asked programs to tally the number of photos taken and the percentage of their volunteers and staff participating in the campaign. The friendly competition resulted in even more participation than last year, and it's a treat to see volunteers with their "I Volunteer Because" signs popping up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It's not too late for another post! Check out our  National Foster Care Month toolkit online, download the "I Volunteer Because" sign template, then share your photo, using the hashtags #CASAsChangeLives  #BeACASA #NationalFosterCareMonth.

Together, we can raise awareness of CASA, recruit more volunteers, and cultivate more donors to help the network serve more foster youth.
Immigration FAQ

From time to time, the children we serve are affected by their residency status or the residency status of someone they care about. Currently, our nation is involved in a significant debate, and subsequent action, regarding federal immigration policy. Therefore, it is important for CASA programs and volunteers to have the resources necessary to inform our youth, and advocate for children affected by issues of immigration. California CASA staff prepared "FAQs: Immigration Issues and CASA Advocacy in California," a Frequently Asked Questions resource that aims to proactively answer many common questions about the intersection of immigration status and child welfare. It is available on California CASA's website at:
http://www.californiacasa.org/tools-resources/volunteer-resources/immigration/
Annual Legislative Update

California CASA staff published an annual legislative update summarizing the new laws that went into effect this year affecting children and youth in the foster care system.  This and previous years' updates can be found at:
http://www.californiacasa.org/what-we-do/policy-legislative-advocacy/
Volunteer Recruitment Campaign in the Far North

Earlier this year, California CASA Association launched a months-long volunteer recruitment campaign in the "Far North" of the State, encompassing Chico and north to the Oregon border, and from the Pacific coast to the Nevada border. There are nine CASA programs operating in 13 counties and serving approximately 650 foster youth in the region with another 1,000 children waiting to be served. Funded by van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation, the campaign has included print and online ads, radio announcements, and even a televised Public Service Announcement (PSA) that has aired on the ABC network affiliate for the region. 

The region's CASA programs have reported a definite uptick in inquiries from potential volunteers, and the exposure in the community has been met with considerable pride from CASA volunteers, CASA program staff, Board members, and other supporters.  Many thanks to the programs for helping to develop the campaign, and to van Löben Sels/RembeRock Foundation for enabling us to help recruit more CASA volunteers and, in turn, provide much-needed advocacy to more foster youth in California's Far North. To watch the PSA created to support the campaign, click here.
Lifting Hearts Fundraiser a Success


On Saturday, March 4, 2017, California CASA Association hosted Lifting Hearts in downtown Oakland. This event brought together our supporters for a lively afternoon filled with the camaraderie of our new and old friends. Together, we enjoyed jazzy music by a UC Berkeley trio, delicious hors d'oeuvres, local wine, specialty beer, outstanding silent and live auctions and CASA stories shared by youth, board representatives, and others deeply engaged in CASA activities. We are deeply thankful to all who played a part in the success of this intimate gathering of friends.
 
It was especially meaningful to be able to take the opportunity of our coming together to honor Kaiser Permanente as a true CASA Champion, and to recognize the lifetime achievements of the Honorable Len Edwards, for improving the lives of abused and neglected children in California and the world.

Through this event, California CASA Association raised more than $73,000 (net) to support our mission of ensuring that children in the foster care system have both a voice and the services that they need for a stable future.

To view the event's photo gallery, click here.

Georgette Osserman:
An Artist's Creative Contribution to CASA

When artist Georgette Osserman first met former California CASA Association CEO Cory Pohley in Sausalito, it was in Osserman's art studio in the famous Industrial Center Building (ICB), a creative and commercial home for artists of all kinds including sculptors, fabric artists, photographers, and painters, like Georgette. "Cory would visit me at my studio, and tell me about this unbelievable program, the CASA program, and how it can change someone's life forever," shared Georgette, "Cory told me about a fundraiser California CASA was planning and asked whether I would donate an artwork for the auction." Georgette's answer was an enthusiastic yes, and she and Cory immediately made the rounds at ICB to solicit artworks for the auction from other artists. "We had more than 20 works within an hour," Georgette said, "and I and other ICB artists have been donating works to support California CASA ever since."

Coming to art later in life, Georgette's work has become sought after by collectors. One of these, Steven Ames Brown, happened to be the attorney of the legendary singer and social activist Nina Simone, who saw one of Georgette's paintings in Brown's office and asked that it be used for a CD she was producing. "I had the opportunity to meet Nina Simone backstage at one of her concerts," said Georgette, "Nina said my name when I entered the room, and I got chills from the strength and resonance of her voice. l was, and still am, the only artist whose work has been used on Nina's recordings. This is a huge honor."

Georgette and her husband Michael Heiner attended the Lifting Hearts fundraiser in March, and she plans to help stage a larger art auction to benefit California CASA in 2018. "I believe we all want to be able to tell our unique stories. Artists get this privilege every day they create. For these children who have lost contact with their families, a CASA is the one person willing, even eager, to listen. What an amazing gift."

Thank you, Georgette, for your ongoing commitment to California CASA and for your commitment to helping to improve foster children's lives. To see more of Georgette Osserman's artworks and sign up to be notified when she and her fellow ICB artists have their next open studio event, click here .  
Songs for CASA

A few years ago, longtime California CASA supporter and patron Denis Loiseau wrote a beautiful and touching song "The Light in Every Child's Eyes", with an accompanying music video for California CASA.

We now have a second country music song! Stowe Dailey and Karen Taylor-Good, known as StoweGood are songwriters and speakers based in Nashville, and they were recently commissioned by a CASA volunteer in Orange, Texas to write a song for CASA. The volunteer is passionate about the CASA mission, and requested they write an impassioned song that would encourage its listeners to become CASA volunteers.

Ms. Dailey and Ms. Tayler-Good asked that it be shared with the California CASA network: "Please USE it, SHARE it, and let us know how it is received. If we can ever help you at a live event, let us know. (We will be in CA at the end of June 2017.)"

Music is a wonderful way to get out the message of CASA, and we have two beautiful songs that tell our story. Take a listen to "I Will Be Your Voice" https://soundcloud.com/stowegood/i-will-be-your-voice. For more information, you can contact Stowe & Karen at 615-791-1111, or visit www.stowegood.com.

Change for Children Ride 2017

In April, Aaron Pankratz, Associate
Director of CASA of Santa Barbara County, cycled 375 miles, in two days, to raise awareness of abused and neglected children and the positive impact CASA volunteers have on foster children's lives. His
Change for Children Ride  began in Santa Maria, with the goal to arrive in Sacramento the next afternoon to meet State Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham.
 
Aaron's journey was successful (despite the wind), and he stopped at several CASA program offices along the way, arriving to cheers and congratulatory handshakes. The CASA programs he connected with en route included CASA of San Luis Obispo, CASA of Tulare County, CASA of Kings County, CASA of Fresno & Madera Counties, CASA of Merced County, CASA of Stanislaus County, and CASA of San Joaquin County, who obtained media coverage of Aaron's ride in their local Stockton Record newspaper.

Many thanks to Aaron, his supportive family, and CASA of Santa Barbara County for executing this ambitious awareness raising campaign. Thanks, too, to the CASA programs that cheered on Aaron along the way. Plans are already underway for a Change for Children Ride 2018, so stay tuned for details!
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