The latest news and information from Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Fresno and Madera Counties. 

Message from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Every May we recognize Foster Care Awareness Month, and here in Fresno and Madera Counties there are over 2,500 children in the foster care system. Year after year, we rally to raise awareness of the plight of foster children and the need to support them. Our work sometimes feels like an uphill battle, yet we are energized when we hear stories about a teen who has graduated from high school, a child who has been adopted and has a new "forever family," or about a child who is able to reunite with their parents. These successes happen when caring adults are in the child's life, a supportive team that often includes a Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, volunteer.
We ask our community: Don't let this Foster Care Awareness Month go unnoticed. Volunteer, refer friends, or make a donation to help us serve more foster youth. We appreciate your support this month and throughout the year.
Nathan Lee, Executive Director.

Voices of Hope 2017 annual Volunteer Recognition event! 

Our Annual Volunteer Recognition event, Voices of Hope, was held on Tuesday, May 2nd at the Golden Palace Banquet Hall. Chris Alvarez of ABC30 was our emcee for the evening and guests enjoyed hearing from our speaker Jake Soberal of Bitwise Industries. Thank you to everyone who attended and helped us honor all of our amazing volunteers!
Congratulations to the following 2017 award winners!
Partnership awards:
Advocate Carolyn Plunkett and Social Worker Natalie Aleshin
Advocate Marie Edwards and Social Worker Veronica Salmeron
Advocate Lynne Hawkins and Care Providers Alejandra & Steven James
Voices of Hope awards:
Barbara Kosinski
Steve Merrill
Kaleena Goodman
Advocate of the year: Alice Pierson-Knapp. 

Meet our Advocate of the Year Winner - Alice Pierson-Knapp! 

About three years ago, Alice was assigned to a youth who had experienced a lifetime of family insecurity compounded with a complicated diagnosis; this youth could not stay in any placement longer than a month. He was being verbally and physically aggressive, throwing objects and destroying property. Alice traveled a long distance to see her youth in another town away from Fresno. Shortly after, Alice learned that her youth will be moved to another state because no other group home could meet his challenging needs in California. Alice chose to remain his advocate despite the thousand miles between them. Alice continues to advocate for her youth by staying in touch with all the team members who work with him on a daily basis. She has been instrumental in following up on important issues and ensuring that the right services are in place for her youth. Alice also keeps in touch with her youth through phone calls, letters and care packages. Alice states, "I am able to see a side of [him] that others don't always see due to his behaviors. He can be very creative and kind. He takes a lot of pride in how he appears. He likes to wear ties and blazers to school. He also asked that I send more soap. We always have a laugh or laughs during our conversations". In one of his return letters to Alice, he wrote, "I hope when I go home I will see you more than I do here in Texas."Alice says that getting in touch with her youth is hit and miss, with a lot of misses. She relies on letters and cards to let him know that she is thinking about him and looking forward to his return.
Meanwhile CASA was in need of someone to hold Educational Rights for another youth. It was presumed that was the only need for that child, so CASA asked Alice to step in. However, that was not the case. Alice was assigned to a youth who did not get adopted but all of her siblings did. The youth was very lonely and depressed because for the past six years in foster care she had no family connections, a failed adoption, and about ten placement changes. On top of everything else, she was placed in a foster home in which she did not receive the emotional support that she needed to thrive. She was having thoughts of suicide, and medication was recommended by her doctor. Alice became the voice for her youth and advocated for a placement change. After many team meetings her youth was able to change placements and she was placed into a very welcoming and nurturing home. Soon thereafter, she had a big smile on her face and did not need the medication anymore. Alice did not stop there and wanted to do something about the fact that her youth did not have any permanent connections, so she decided to initiate the Family Finding Search and Engagement. It was a complex task and many meetings took place. The team's fear was that no appropriate family would be found. Not all team members were certain that the youth was ready for this step and almost put a stop in the process, but Alice and the therapist reassured everyone that the youth is ready. Letters were sent out to all found family members, and about five individuals responded to the search. The found family stated that they thought the youth was adopted and they had lost all contact with her. The youth recently began to reconnect with her extended family. Alice is hopeful that the youth will find someone along the way, who can give something her youth has always dreamed of, a gift of family.

CASA of Santa Barbara "Change for Children Ride" stops in Fresno. 

In April the Associate Director of CASA of Santa Barbara County, Aaron Pankratz, rode is bike 375 miles from Santa Barbara to Sacramento to raise awareness for CASA organizations in California. He stopped by the CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties office during day 1 of his ride! We were happy to cheer Aaron on in his adventure. To read about his whole journey visit his Facebook page below. 

Change for Children Ride 2017
Save the Date!
The 19th Annual Crab Feed will be held on 
Friday, September 15th, 2017 

Upcoming Events
Here's what's happening at CASA in May:
Journey of Hope 13-18 Small Group Meeting: Thursday, May 11, 6:15-8:15 p.m. CASA Office.
Board of Directors Meeting: Monday, May 15, 5:30-7:00 p.m. Dowling Aaron.
Crab Feed Team Meeting: Wednesday, May 17, 5:30-7:00 p.m. - 9 River Park Place.
Continuing Education Class: Thursday, May 18, 6:15-8:15 p.m. NorthPointe Community Church.
Journey of Hope 0-5 Small Group Meeting: Wednesday, May 24, 5:15-8:15 p.m. CASA Office.
Office Closed in observation of Memorial Day: Monday, May 29.

CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties | 559.244.6485 ||
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