Every Child Needs A Champion

Every child needs a champion. At any given moment, hundreds of children and youth in our community are caught in the complex foster care system.  The Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates (ACCASA) program provides one-on-one advocacy and mentoring for children, who no fault of their own end up in the system. ACCASA is a member of the National CASA Association and is one of more than 900 CASA programs nationwide. ACCASA recruits, trains, and supports dedicated volunteer advocates to be a constant in a child’s life. Annually, ACCASA provides support to 340 of the estimated 1,500 foster children from Alameda County.

Every child needs someone in their corner. For children and youth facing the complex foster care system, that trusted adult can be hard to find. Through no fault of their own, these children are often separated from family and face a constantly shifting world of temporary homes and intervening professionals. Having a dedicated advocate to help them navigate the challenges while providing compassionate personal guidance is an invaluable asset for young people looking to reach their potential. CASA volunteers get to know the child and speak to everyone involved in the child’s life, including their family members, teachers, attorneys, social workers, therapists, psychiatrists, and others. Volunteers research the facts of the case, create a plan for advocacy, collaborate with the professionals on the case, make written recommendations to the court, and monitor progress towards established goals. Their recommendations help the court make informed decisions about the children.

“We currently have about fifty youth on our waitlist who are in need of a CASA volunteer,” says Sharae Blaché, Recruiter and Community Outreach Coordinator. “Being a CASA volunteer is a very rewarding commitment. It is a unique opportunity to advocate for a child or young adult transitioning to independence in need within the foster care system. I invite readers to learn more about ACCASA to see if working with a foster child is right for them.”

CASA volunteer may advocate for sibling visitation, educational support, extracurricular activities, mental health services, or other resources depending on the child’s situation. By simply listening, encouraging, guiding, and speaking up for a child, CASA volunteers help these children reach their full potential. As one volunteer noted, “Being a CASA has changed me because I now see that just being there for somebody, listening, and providing unconditional acceptance matters.”

Funding and donations make a life-altering difference. Thanks to a generous donation of new clothing from the Major League Baseball Wives Club, ACCASA was able to provide fashionable outfits to local foster youth aged 11 to 21. ACCASA was also able to provide laptops to youth to assist with distance learning during the pandemic and help them maintain an all-important connection to their CASA volunteers.

ACCASA is a program of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, in coordination with Alameda County Superior Court Juvenile Division. The Friends of Alameda County CASA, Inc. is the nonprofit organization that supports ACCASA by raising public awareness and funds to support its work. ACCASA’s newest virtual campaign, Fitness for Foster Youth Fundraiser, will be held from January 1 to March 31, 2021. ACCASA supporters are encouraged to seek pledges to support a safe walk, run, or swim to meet their personal fundraising goal within the 90 days of the campaign. Each participant will receive a swag bag.

For more information about the Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program, including the fundraiser, please visit casaofalamedacounty.org or contact Alexandra Ferry at aferrycasa@gmail.com.

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