Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of OC received $15,000.  CASA of OC currently has a waitlist of 225 children. Money will be used to train the CASAs, match them with youth, and provide direct support to CASAs by trained supervisors.

Description of how the funds will be used: 

CASA of OC currently has a waitlist of 225 children, all foster youth of Orange County that are seeking the support of a specially trained advocate.  The largest group of children are the Transitional Age Youth (TAY).  The amount of money provided will directly correlate to an increase in the number of youth that are able to be served.  Money will be used to train the CASAs, match them with youth, and provide direct support to CASAs by trained supervisors. CASAs are trained to implement intensive life-skills training to increase chance of high school graduation and learn independent living skills.

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

The TAY population (age 14-21) makes up 25% of foster youth in OC.  This population has the lowest chance of being adopted or reunified with their family (therefore remaining in the foster system until they age out) and have likely experienced significant trauma.

Statistics of foster youth without CASAs: 40% will end up on public assistance, 45% homeless by age 21, 50% unemployed, 30% of men imprisoned.  Foster youth suffer trauma at 2x the rate of returning veterans. These young adults desperately need support that our system is failing to provide.

The TAY Program will pair each foster youth with one CASA that will guide them through this pivotal transition period, providing guidance, education, support, and a consistent presence in their life.  The CASA meets with the youth at least twice per month, though additional meetings are often required as the CASA attends all court hearings, foster home placement meetings, school meetings, etc.  CASA’s are often the only consistent person in their life.  CASA’s have a 2-year commitment, many stay a lot longer some until the child ages out.

Describe the Organization or Project as it pertains to the following Impact Giving Grant Standards-

High Impact & Life Transforming:

The high school graduation rates for foster youth are 48%; for those with a CASA, rates increase to 93%. CASAs provide invaluable life-skills training to transition to adulthood including helping them secure safe/affordable housing, obtain education/training, learn financial management, with the ultimate goal being self-sufficiency.

Education:

The core objective of the TAY program is to teach life skills pertaining to finances, housing, employment, and more.  Additionally, CASAs support the TAY’s education process, and promote ideas of college or trade school. Foster children often move around, and CASA’s help ensure school records transfer with the student.  CASA recruits are required to complete 30 hours of training/education before becoming advocates.

Sustainability:

CASA-OC has been in operation for 33 years.  They have a proven track record of continuing to secure funding (92% privately) for their program, and continue to seek grants through foundation, corporate, and government support. Their board consists of multi-year members with their chairman having served for 10 years.

Community Building:

TAY program brings together the teen’s placement staff, foster parents, social workers, educators, counselors, attorneys and judges to collaborate.  CASA OC partners with over 30 private and public organizations (e.g., OC juvenile Dependency Court, Social and mental health services, OCC, etc.)

Innovative:

CASA-OC offers a unique service to the foster youth community.  The TAY’s CASA is most likely the only consistent person they have in their life.  Though CASAs commit to 2 years, many often stay longer and become a fixture in the life of the transitioning foster youth.

Measurable:

CASA-OC has four methods for evaluating successful outcomes: surveys completed by advocates and children, as well as semi-annual Case Outcomes Surveys completed by Case Supervisors.  Measuring graduation rates on foster youth without at 48% and with a CASA at 93% is an impressive result.

Organization’s Mission Statement:

CASA provides a powerful voice for youth in the child welfare system through a unique one-on-one relationship with trained and supervised court appointed volunteer advocates. We work to ensure that these youth are safe, have a permanent home and an opportunity to thrive.                       

Link to the website:   www.casaoc.org