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Voices for Children observes National Foster Care Awareness Month

SAN DIEGO – Voices for Children urgently needs community volunteers to step up and advocate for children who have experienced abuse and neglect San Diego and Riverside counties.

May is National Foster Care Month, and Voices for Children is recognizing the important role Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) and all members of the foster care system play in supporting children, youth, and families.

CASA volunteers are advocates who bring stability to thousands of children in foster care in San Diego and Riverside counties.

According to Jessica Muñoz, Esq., MFS, President and CEO at Voices for Children, this past year, CASA volunteers and staff advocates supported more than 2,300 youth in foster care between the two counties. The organization urgently needs more volunteers to ensure a trained CASA is provided to every abused, abandoned, or neglected child who needs one.

The organization is in high need of Spanish-speaking and male CASAs.

A CASA's impact:

One caring adult can make a difference for a child who has experienced trauma or neglect. For example, CASA Tracey has diligently served as an advocate to support her assigned youth, 18-year-old "Mariana," for over a year and a half. Mariana is a vibrant teen with a great sense of humor, enjoys interacting with others, and has a positive outlook on life despite the adversity she has endured.

However, without consistency and stability, Mariana has struggled to regulate her emotions and develop coping mechanisms to make healthy choices. Needing mental health support, Mariana has been receiving treatment outside of the county.

Nonetheless, CASA Tracey frequently visits, schedules video chats, and has consistent calls with Mariana, building a very close relationship. Working with Mariana's case manager, social worker, and teachers, CASA Tracey is doing everything possible for Mariana to feel supported and have all her needs met to achieve her academic goals.

This year's theme for National Foster Care Awareness Month is "Engaging Youth. Building Supports. Strengthening Opportunities," and is intended to raise awareness about older youth exiting care.

Children and youth who have experienced abuse or neglect are among the most vulnerable and underserved populations in our local community. A child in foster care may have faced physical, psychological, and/or emotional trauma only to now face long periods of uncertainty. This is where the CASA steps in.

CASA volunteers are specially trained and appointed by judges to advocate for children or sibling groups while they are in the foster care system. They advocate for children in court, school and other settings; and get to know everyone involved in the children's lives, including their parents, foster parents, teachers, doctors, family members and others.

CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for these children to be reunified with their parents whenever safe and possible. In fact, a core part of their role is to help create and strengthen a lifetime network of relatives, family friends and other committed adults who can support the child and their parents during their involvement with foster care and beyond – increasing the likelihood for reunification.

When reunification is not an option, they advocate for the child to live with another relative or family friend. They can also advocate for the child to be placed in a loving adoptive home.

A CASA's advocacy is unique because it is based on an individualized understanding of the child's needs. CASAs are important to youth in foster care because they provide stability and support, identify needed resources, and advocate for them in court, schools, health care settings, and more.

When paired with CASA volunteers, children have better chances to succeed later in life and to form meaningful relationships with the adults, caregivers, and guardians around them. Over time, a CASA often becomes the most consistent person in a child's life.

Key foster care facts:

At Voices for Children, in fiscal year 2022/2023:

· 222 Voices for Children CASAs held educational rights on behalf of their case youth.

· 337 cases closed while served by Voices for Children CASAs ended in reunification, adoption, or guardianship.

· Voices for Children currently has nearly 1,300 CASA volunteers and staff advocates supporting nearly 2,300 children in foster care across San Diego and Riverside Counties.

· 50 to 60% of children in foster care in San Diego and Riverside counties on a given day are part of a sibling set. CASA volunteers are often the ones who enable siblings to maintain relationships with one another.

· There are more than 390,000 children and youth in foster care nationwide.

· Estimated number of children who will spend time in San Diego County foster care this year: 3,000

· Estimated number of children who will spend time in Riverside County foster care this year 4,500

· "Children assigned CASA volunteers or staff are much less likely to return to the child welfare system. In fact, compared to children who do not have a CASA volunteer or staff, the proportion of reentries is consistently reduced by half."

"Each year, Voices for Children needs to recruit, train and graduate hundreds of CASA volunteers in our region to keep up with the demand for children who are newly entering the foster care system after being removed from their homes," said Muñoz.

"During National Foster Care Awareness Month, we would like to invite everyone in our community who has a heart for children and wants to make a difference for one of our most vulnerable populations to explore becoming a CASA volunteer. Children in foster care need a dedicated advocate who is by their side and to ensure their needs are met," added Munoz.

To learn more about the CASA program or become a volunteer, go to

Submitted by Voices for Children.


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