Voices for Children transforms the lives of abused children in San Diego County by providing them with volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). We believe that every child deserves a safe and permanent home, and to that end, will review and monitor every court file in the system, provide a CASA to every child in the foster care system who needs one, and advocate to improve the lives of San Diego County’s foster children. In addition, Voices for Children works to increase awareness about the foster care system locally and nationally, and advocates for legal policies and practices that enhance the quality of life for foster children.

Description of how the funds will be used:

Of the current 5100 youth in foster care in San Diego, 1500 are teenagers ages 16-21, who have been in foster care most of their lives. “Transitioning Teens & Homeless Prevention” (TTHP) currently provides 350 teens with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) who are guides through this most difficult transition into successful adulthood. CASAs commit to 35 hours of training before they commit to a youth in need. Funds for this grant proposal will be used to recruit and train 12 new CASAs who will serve 12-60 teens. For each $1 spent on the CASA program, it is estimated that $7 is saved for society.

Description of Project/Program, what makes it compelling, and the specific needs it will address:

Until 2012, foster youth were “emancipated” at age 18 — discontinued from social service assistance completely — and 50% of these were either homeless or incarcerated within one year because they had no support. Voices for Children created TTHP for these teens who otherwise may fall into these hopeless statistics. Since 2012, California Law has extended foster support beyond the age of 18 through to the age of 21. These fragile foster teens can now get the compassion, attention, and life-skills every high school student needs to graduate. Trained CASAs teach necessary life-skills for these transitioning foster teens, and CASAs become invaluable advocates/mentors providing consistency and support in helping young foster youth learn to set goals and reach success in education, employment, financial planning and housing. CASAs commit to at least 10-15 hours a month (many do much more) providing hands-on support and mentoring.

Describe the Organization or Project as it pertains to the following Impact Giving Grant Standards: High Impact, Direct Benefit, Education, Sustainability, Community Building, Innovative, Measurable:

Teens who have spent their entire lives in the foster system are the most damaged, having suffered repeated abuse, neglect, and abandonment. CASAs who are able to maintain relationships with these teens into adulthood create high impact in each life, teaching and modeling social skills, sticking by them throughout their educational and vocational processes, and overall contribute immensely to success in their lives. Since foster teens go on to become parents, CASAs have an extremely high impact on the health and welfare of the next generation. The TTHP program is life transformational, not only for the teens, but also for their CASAs, and definitely for future families these teens will create. The heart of TTHP is personal love and commitment, and the engine is education. CASAs help to ensure continued education wherever possible, and vocational education where practical. Additionally, the life skills CASAs teach these teens span beyond traditional learning and encompass practical applications used on a daily basis, both personally and professionally. Community building is a high value in Voices for Children, and the TTHP program utilizes over 60 other community organizations to help these teens find the right schools, jobs, transportation, food, counseling, and living arrangements that best fit them. TTHP couldn’t exist without the support of these professional organizations. And while support for foster kids is not original or innovative, Voices for Children and their TTHP program certainly rises to the top as an example for ensuring these foster teens can become mature productive citizens, and truly break the chain of abuse and abandonment.

Organization’s overall annual budget: $5,429,650