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When we think of youth involved in the juvenile justice system, it's all too easy for society to place labels on these young individuals who have had an encounter with the legal system. However, at CASA of Santa Cruz County, we firmly believe that justice-involved youth are not defined by the mistakes they've made or the offenses they've committed. They are, fundamentally, just kids.

Thanks to heartfelt donation by Chris MacFarlane in memory of Zachary Parrish and the incredible support from Bookshop Santa Cruz, we were able to go on a book shopping spree for the very young foster children of our community.

Zach was an author and had a love for books with Bookshop Santa Cruz being his go-to place. Zach had even won an honorable mention in a contest that Bookshop Santa Cruz held when he was a kid. Having these donated books go to foster children is special to Zach's family, as Zach's maternal grandparents had opened their home to dozens of foster kids over the course of 12 years.

With the gift, we were able to purchase dozens of bi-lingual, English, and Spanish board books and beginner reader children's books, bringing the joy of reading to young hearts. Many thanks to Casey at Bookshop Santa Cruz for your invaluable assistance and fantastic discount, enabling us to get even more books into the hands of these deserving children! 

Welcome to Fall, with all its colorful changes, and our July-September 2023 Quarterly Update!

Since being sworn in, Ellen has worked with two families with each case spanning about two years, with a short break in between. In both situations, Ellen supported infants, which meant supporting not only the young children, but also their families, as any child under the age of 3 cannot be taken out of the home by a CASA. The babies Ellen supported had been removed from their mother’s care and placed with extended family in the community. Therefore, Ellen worked with both the resource family (the extended family caring for the child) and the birth parents, who were working toward reunification.

When Advocate Pete learned that 15-year-old Wes* loved animals, he brought his dogs along to their very first meeting. They all went on a walk and got to know each other a little better. When the walk was over, Pete asked if Wes wanted him to be his Advocate. Wes said “yes.”

I hope that your summer is off to a great start. Thank you for being one of our strongest supporters and taking the time to read our Spring 2023 quarterly update.

As of Monday, July 17th, 2023, current and former foster youth can attend University of California, California State University or California community college free of charge.

Juvenile Court Judge Jerry Vinluan shares his experience of wearing an ankle monitor for a week. These GPS monitors are placed on certain youths on probation to track the movements and used as an alternative to incarceration at juvenile hall. His week with the ankle monitor provided invaluable insights into the lives of justice-involved youth. By sharing his story, he hopes to shed light on the realities faced by these justice-involved youth and inspire a deeper understanding and a bit of empathy within our community.

Patrick, a dedicated CASA volunteer for the past eight years, had his CASA experience take an unexpected turn when he was asked to advocate for a 17-year-old, justice-involved youth in 2022. When Patrick first learned that he would be matched with a young man, K*, on probation, he couldn't help but feel a mixture of hesitation and fear. Like many volunteers, Patrick had concerns and some unanswered questions about working with a youth involved in the justice system.
However, to his surprise, K turned out to be a polite and respectful teenager, far from the "scary" image that initially crossed Patrick's mind.

When a child or youth is taken out of the home, it can be a traumatic experience for the entire family. We here CASA of Santa Cruz not only support the child or youth though these tough times but the entire family to help the child or youth return home.

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we want to take a moment to express our appreciation for the incredible individuals and families who selflessly open their hearts and homes to children in need

In my nearly three years of serving as our county’s Juvenile Dependency Judge, I almost daily marvel at the significant positive impact made by Court Appointed Special Advocates in the lives of the various parties engaged in juvenile dependency.

Lynne Petrovic, Executive Director, shares the work CASA has been doing over the first month of the quarter.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a crucial time to raise awareness about preventing child abuse and neglect. Preventing child abuse requires a community effort. We as a community can help give families the tools they need to thrive.

As a volunteer Advocate in CASA’s Juvenile Justice Pilot Program, Larry was matched with 17-year-old Tyler.

As one of CASA’s newest Advocates, Pia was a little apprehensive when she was matched with two teenage sisters and their five-year-old brother. But as Pia describes it, “It just felt right.”

A beautiful example of how a family, with support of an amazing caring CASA, can heal and grow, even thru tough times.

Black History Month is a time to remember, celebrate and commemorate the achievements and contributions by African-American men and women throughout U.S. history.

Devon edged closer to aging out of the system, leaving him without the much-needed resources for him to flourish into adulthood. But right around his 18th birthday, Devon was matched with Advocate Prentice. 

CASA of Santa Cruz County Receives Grant from the California CASA Association to Strengthen Foster Youth Advocacy.

Every year, CASA of Santa Cruz County serves about a dozen dual-status youth, meaning youth who are in both Dependency and Juvenile Justice Courts. Advocates are often matched with youth in one court and then enter into another to become dual-status. Advocate Sarah was matched with 11-year-old Hope* in 2017 while in Dependency Court. When Hope was 13, she was arrested for the first time and became a dual-status youth. Unfortunately, Hope has been in foster care since the age of 6, has had 16 placements, and has lived in several group homes. Her life has been full of trauma and hurt, and the pain can manifest itself with her behavior.

As we close out the year and CASA’s 30th year of supporting Santa Cruz County foster youth and their families, we would like to take the opportunity to celebrate our amazing community.

Advocates Sue and Susan became co-CASAs for two young siblings placed in foster care in December 2020 and spent two and half years Advocating for and working with the family as the parents and kids reunified, healed, and grew.

November is National Adoption Month and CASA of Santa Cruz County would like to highlight a family who lovingly adopted their grandchildren into their home. Volunteer Advocate Julie has been with Charlie through all the changes during the past three years—from living with his parents, to the transitions and homelessness during COVID, and through the entire adoption process.

Our Quarterly Update from Lynne is here! Take a read of what CASA of SC County has been up to the past three months.

Former foster youth, Ana, shares in her own words how she lost her voice while in the foster care system and how she found it again.

Jill became a CASA Advocate in 2020 and was matched with a transition-age youth, as a mentor to help with independent living and the transition to adulthood.

The CASA Scholarship Fund offers awards to current or former foster youth who are attending college, vocational training, or other accredited educational pursuits. These renewable awards are in the amount of $500 or $1000. While tuition and dorm fees are usually covered by the student’s financial aid package from the school, youth need extra resources to not just survive in college but thrive. 

Here are some excerpts from recent award recipients’ essays to illustrate how the funds help them feel supported: 

June is Reunification Month where we celebrate families that are successfully maintained during their time in the Dependency Care System. 

Mike (fictitious name) suddenly became a single father of three young girls during the pandemic while living in a shelter. His daughters had been removed from their mother's care due to neglect, and now had to figure out how to raise them on his own.

A former foster youth shares her experience of entering into foster care at the age of four, moving various times, and attending 12 different grade schools. And, how, despite all the obstacles, was able to believe in herself and her future.

As any parent will tell you, newborns require a lot of care. Newborns exposed to addictive substances in utero, or pos-tox, doubly so. Over 85% of the infant cases referred to CASA of Santa Cruz involve a baby born pos-tox. And so, in honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we would like to celebrate the Foster (Resource) Families that take on the extremely challenging task of caring for these high-needs infants.

In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, we wanted to share the story of a very young boy, who with the nurturing of his resource (foster) family, dramatically improved his cognitive development and transformed his life.

Cindy Margolin was sworn in by the Santa Cruz County Court as a volunteer youth Advocate back in 2002, after attending the required comprehensive 35-hour training. Over these past 20 years, she has been matched one-on-one with eight youth, ranging in age from toddlers to teens, located across the county. She has logged over ten years of active advocacy during which she volunteered an average of 20 hours per month. She spends at least one afternoon each week with the youth she is matched with, getting to know them, their caregivers, and what they need. She fiercely advocates for their best interest in Court, school, and even healthcare needs.

The law is very specific about who is responsible to report child abuse and neglect as well as what is necessary to report.

Happy spring everyone! I'm pleased to bring you a new quarterly update for this new calendar year.

CASA of Santa Cruz County is grateful for the community partnership with Encompass Community Services (ECS) Head Start to strengthen our efforts to support children 0-5 and with high needs families due to life circumstances; including unhoused families, children with special needs, those involved in the child welfare system, experiencing poverty and experiencing crisis.

Administrative Intern, Conny Ramirez, writes about her first eight months working at CASA of Santa Cruz County, sharing what she's learned, what she hopes to accomplish in the coming months, and what the CASA house means to her.

So, I was pregnant, with a job but living in a foster home with no tools, and with no support system aside from my foster family. I tried reaching out to my biological mom to tell her she was going to be a grandmother. She told me not to count on her and hung up. So, then there was that added to my pregnancy stress. I found a place to move to with my baby and the father of my baby. With the emergency Section 8 voucher I was granted (which was the only good thing that happened to me, housing-wise), I was able to secure a place. Two bedrooms for my little family.

March is Social Worker Appreciation Month. A Poem.

Well, this new group home was in a nice, big house. It did not resemble a group home at all. It was very quiet. It had many rooms and only two girls in each. I liked the warm feeling of the house and the staff there were actually very nice and welcoming. There were more Latina girls there and it was only a matter of hours before I was part of the house. They had a huge back yard full of weeds and trash, but it had potential to be a nice place to hang out in the summer, if it was cleaned, and if I stayed there till then.

I stepped to the edge of the sidewalk. As I was going to step into the street as cars were coming, the social worker grabbed my arm. We drove to my house to get a few of my belongings and saw my stepdad being hauled away. The shoe he had used to hit me was in an officer’s hand and he was in handcuffs. As the worker and officer walked me inside, my brother asked me if I was happy that I “had destroyed his family.” If I was happy with “what I caused.” My sister was just sad and didn’t quite understand what had happened. I was taken to an emergency placement outside of town, in Hollister somewhere. I ran away because I didn’t know where I was. I remember somehow making it back down to Watsonville and being placed in a group home in the middle of nowhere.

I come from a home that consisted of abuse, drugs, and violence, low income, and very little support. My bio-dad was an alcoholic, drug addict, with a violent history, who had sexual predatory behavior. My mom worked often to escape the abuse, but most of the time that didn’t work. My little brother who did not always see the same punishments or abuse that I did. Maybe it was because I was a girl, and he was the boy and baby of the house. He managed to escape a lot of physical punishment but did witness mine and sometimes my mom’s abuse. Being undocumented and having undocumented parents made it all worse because we were taught to not say anything, trust no one, and if we did, there would be harsh consequences. So, we knew not to say much to anyone at an early age.

Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on the ways in which women throughout history have impacted our communities and our cultures. For us at CASA, it also provides an opportunity to reflect on the unique ways that being involved in the child welfare system affects women, both as parents and as children.

Jackson experienced things no child ever should. He was only eight years old when he was removed from his parent’s care. But the healing process is long and often winding. In a not all uncommon expression of trauma, Jackson lit a fire and was arrested and charged with arson. His adoptive mother didn’t want him in her house anymore and Jackson was alone to navigate the labyrinthian Juvenile Justice System on his own. 

Gabi Poremba is a 3rd year Politics and Psychology major at the University of California, Santa Cruz and affiliated with the Theta Xi chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority at UCSC. It has been over six months since she started her internship at CASA of Santa Cruz, and wrote a reflection on her experience thus far.

We are grateful to have Kent Thompson in our community of supporters and to honor him as a Board Member Emeritus. 

This is an excerpt from our 20/21 Annual Impact Report

Thank you for your continued support! I hope you enjoy the following update of CASA of Santa Cruz’s activities during the last quarter of the calendar year.

Child neglect is more likely in families that are experiencing an overload of stress. The weight of poverty can especially overload parents’ abilities to provide supportive relationships and basic needs for their children. This was the case with Tammy*, a 21-year old single mother of four children, who found herself homeless and without a vehicle.

Due to the dual stresses of poverty and the pandemic, the number of babies and toddlers entering dependency court has increased. Therefore, the need for CASAs who can step in to support such a young child has never been greater. After participating in the first Zoom training session offered, Stacey Blasing became an Advocate in June of 2020. She was soon matched with a 17–month-old toddler.