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How CASA Matches One Advocate to One Child or Youth

You may have wondered how a child in foster care or on juvenile probation is identified as needing support and is then matched one-on-one with a volunteer Advocate at CASA. So how does CASA navigate the process of pairing dedicated volunteers with our county’s most vulnerable children and youth to best meet their needs? 

We center the youth by practicing three big ideas: 1) we treat each child’s case as a unique and tuning into their needs; 2) we get to know all of the new Advocate trainees on a personal level; and 3) we provide a supportive and warm Advocate/child introduction process that upholds choice and autonomy.

In the foster care system, we offer every single youth an Advocate. We first come into contact with youth and families in court, at a time when things feel very uncertain and difficult to understand. CASA’s Dependency Court Liaison, Conny Ramirez, serves as the frontline in building bridges between youth and families in court and CASA services. Through her dynamic interactions with attorneys, social workers, parents, caregivers, and other stakeholders during dependency court hearings, she ensures every child and family that wants an Advocate is connected with one. 

Similarly, our team of Juvenile Justice Advocate Supervisors attend juvenile justice court hearings and engage with youths, families, attorneys, and probation officers, championing for the assignment of a volunteer Advocate to support these youths throughout their probationary journey.

In addition, we receive referrals from court partners, community partners, and hear directly from the youths themselves that they are hoping to have a CASA. 

Once the need for an Advocate’s support is pinpointed, the child is placed on our waitlist. The children's waitlist is crucial for managing demand and prioritizing cases based on urgency, ensuring that every child ultimately receives the advocacy they need within 30 days. Our waitlist is thoughtfully maintained and regularly updated by our CASA Intake Coordinator, Javier Negrete, who serves as the hub of all information while the youth is awaiting a match. Javier keeps a robust database of available potential Advocates (their skills, passions, and interests) as well as youths who are coming into the system and their individual needs, interests, and family situation.

A common inquiry we receive is whether CASA assignments are random. The reality is that we strive for matches that are as close to perfect as possible, tailored to the unique needs of each child or youth. This meticulous process involves careful consideration about things like location in the county, native language, child needs and Advocate skills, hobbies and interests.

Our volunteers all undergo a rigorous background check, complete 35 hours of intensive training, observe confidential court proceedings, and graduate by being sworn in by the Santa Cruz County Juvenile Court Judges. 

Once a potential match is identified, the advocate undergoes a case viewing, where they review a synopsis of the case. If they are interested and want to learn more, they are granted access to critical information and resources, like where the child is living, a bit about their background, and the goals of the case. Recognizing the delicate nature of the matching process, CASA ensures that both the youth and the caregiver have a voice in the selection process through the warm hand-off process. Starting a new case can be nerve-wracking for some, but with the help of an Advocate Supervisor, families and youths are often excited and look forward to their first meeting with their new Advocate. After the youth and family have the chance to get to know the Advocate, we ask everyone if they would like to move forward. By prioritizing the youth’s and family’s perspectives, we aim to create matches that nurture comfort and support for all involved parties.

At CASA, our commitment remains steadfast: to provide unwavering support to foster children and juvenile justice-involved youth, one perfect match at a time.