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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.

Rebecca Meredith worked with three Advocate Supervisors, two social workers, and four foster homes over the course of her advocacy for her first CASA child, a five-year-old boy who we’ll call Max. This story ends with an adoption, although “end” is the wrong word.

We are saddened by the passing of Jackie Angelo. Jackie became a CASA Advocate in 2004 and served four children over the course of the five years she was an Advocate.

We are saddened by the passing of former Advocate Diana Cunningham.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Here is an update on what CASA has been up to in the first quarter of our new fiscal year (FY 21-22).

For the past two and a half years, Torrey and Mark have devoted their attention and time to two siblings and the adults in their lives—parents, extended family caregivers—to advocate for a safe, stable, and nurturing home. They stayed by the children, being a constant, stable presence in their lives as they went through family transitions as well as the pandemic. 

Hispanic Heritage Month happens every year between September 15th and October 15th. This month is dedicated to the Hispanic culture and the nations that share that culture.

Mitch has been a volunteer Advocate with CASA of Santa Cruz County for 4 years and counting. A former teacher and school administrator, his love for kids has driven his involvement in helping out foster youth. During his time as a volunteer, Mitch has had the opportunity to work with 3 teens so far.

We are so happy to celebrate the adoption of two sisters, now 5 and 7 years old, who were in the court system for 3 long years. Volunteer Advocate Rebecca T was instrumental in helping the girls with their three-year time in the dependency court system.

Thank you for your continued support! I hope you enjoy the following quarterly update of CASA of Santa Cruz’s activities as we wrapped up our last fiscal year. 

After some time attempting to find the perfect CASA for Sean, Eric was matched with him and became the perfect fit.  Eric’s dedication to Sean, as well as his commitment to provide support to Sean’s mom, helped Sean to settle into being a successful reunification with his mom

June is National Reunification Month—a time to reflect on family strengths that lead to successful reunifications. In honor of the month, CASA of Santa Cruz is celebrating families, volunteers, and service providers who work hard to reunite separated families. Reunified families are a true inspiration, because they have overcome tremendous difficulties and are now equipped with tools to address future challenges. We are happy to share the following story about Sean, reunited with his mom this year, and celebrate their success. 

Please join us in celebrating M Pacheco (pronouns Ella, They, Them), an amazing young Latinx whose resilience, accomplishments, and optimism is extraordinary. M entered foster care at age 10 and remained in the system until they turned 18. M went on to accomplish some amazing things, including recently earning their Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, where they had three graduations -one for their entire program, one for Latinx graduates, and one for the LGBTQIA+ graduates, the Lavender Graduation. We are thrilled to celebrate M’s accomplishments.

On May 27th, 2021, the Hon. Timothy Schmal swore in 13 community members as Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in foster care. This was upon their completion of the CASA 35-hour training program.

May is Foster Care Awareness Month. This story is about two siblings who spent a few years in foster care and were recently adopted by their second foster family. Their CASA, Joani, was there every step of the way.

The California Department of Education is pleased to announce the following webinars: 

We are saddened to share we have lost Dr. Janet Bell after 99 incredible years of a wonderful life. Dr. Bell is a Board Member Emeritus for CASA of Santa Cruz County.

40 minutes before the Dereck Chauvin guilty verdict was announced, Ma’khia Bryant, a Black 16-year-old girl in foster care, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ohio. She was involved in a fight at her group home and the police were called. Foster youth, who have been abused and severely neglected in their childhoods, sometimes express their trauma in ways that make others feel uncomfortable and unsafe. The act of calling the police in these moments leads to the criminalization of these children across our country. 

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

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