This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.”
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are ad-litem guardians for Foster Care Youth. In addition to being a mentor and someone to walk through life with side by side, we are also advocates. Educational advocates, nutrition and food advocates, apply-for-and-get-job and show-up-to-work advocates. In the best sense of the word, we’re stabilizers. We’re here to be that additional supporting hand, shoulder or word of encouragement for foster care youth that are desperately trying to make a life for themselves.
How hard is that?
In 2015, the number of children in foster care was totaled to 427,901. Of that number, 55,983 were in California. As of September 30, 2016, the number of total children in foster care rose to 437,465.
So what does this look like in the day-to-day? The average length of time a child spends in foster care in 2015 was 20 months nationwide; for California, the average was higher at 23 months. In fact, the percent of children in foster care for five or more years in California was 8%—nationwide, this statistic was 6%.
As a CASA, you have responsibilities; this isn’t just volunteer and “maybe I don’t feel like showing up day.” This is serious volunteer work. Volunteer work that helps fill out part of a young person’s life that is missing.
So what do you do to help? You meet with your youth at least once per week, and work with attorneys, social workers, after school programs, job programs, food assistance programs, government leaders to help your youth access to the resources he or she needs.
With that, you have to stay on top of Continuing Ed (CE). It makes sure you stay current, and compassionate. This New Yorker article by Junot Díaz, which was an option for continuing ed, struck me. He’s a Pulitzer prize winner, creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and fiction editor at the Boston Review… and yet an early, traumatic experience, shaped his life.
We’re fortunate his talent still continued to survive. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more about how to be a CASA — and find out how someone took crime in his life, processed it, and became one of the best writers we have today.
This article is part one of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two” tomorrow.