CASA-OC BLOG

Advocate Spotlight - Robyn Stannard

This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Robyn Stannard!

“She awoled for about five weeks. Normally when she does that, she will call me or text me. But she unfriended me [on social media], wouldn’t return my calls...I was feeling like, ‘I’m done.’ Finally she comes back and I go see her at her aunts. I tell her, ‘I was really concerned about you. Did something happen? Did I do something that made you want to pull away?’ [But it wasn’t about me.] She said, ‘I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and you fell in that world.’”

When Robyn first met Erica two years ago, she was 14 and living in a group home. She was shy at first, but was eager to receive a CASA. She could see that, for the other girls living in the group home, CASA outings were their ticket to freedom and fun for a few hours. Robyn was astute enough to recognize that Erica wasn’t particularly talkative or eager to open up,  but if Robyn could get her involved in tasks she enjoyed, she opened up without realizing it. “She didn’t know she was sharing because she was doing something else.” When Robyn first met Erica with her Case Supervisor, she was able to find out that Erica liked reading and art. So their first official outing was to Barnes and Noble, and this quickly became a regular trip for them. They would choose an area of the store that Erica enjoyed browsing, and would eventually end up enjoying a treat in the coffee shop there. Robyn noticed she would get little opportunities here and there to ask Erica questions, to gauge how she was doing and how things were going in her placement, to assess Erica’s needs. These questions were sprinkled throughout a visit, and not asked all at once like an interview. Without Erica realizing it, Robyn was gathering information that enabled her to effectively advocate for Erica.  Going to the movies is also a favorite outing for Erica. While seeing a movie together isn’t exactly the best opportunity for conversation, Robyn is intentional about using the time in the car with Erica.  She hands her phone over to Erica so Erica can open up the Spotify playlists that they’ve been building for two years. At this point, like clockwork, Erica will start chatting about some random thing, and Robyn will be able to turn that into real conversation.  But Robyn doesn’t have magic CASA powers, and sometimes when she picks up Erica, she gets an, “I don’t want to do anything.” Those are the times when Erica is having a tough day, and Robyn simply has to meet her where she’s at. That’s when she scraps her plans and suggests, “Ok let’s go have a Starbucks and sit in the car and listen to music.”

By far, the most challenging aspect of Erica’s case is all the placement changes. Erica goes through stable periods, and then something will set her off, and she’ll go awol for days or weeks. Perhaps other CASAs can relate to Robyn’s lament, that Erica’s reactions to her triggers seem far bigger than the trigger itself. Robyn theorizes that once Erica feels she has “messed up,” she gets discouraged and doesn’t try to correct it easily. Once she is awol for a day, she likely figures she may as well stay gone for a while because she is already in trouble. All of this placement instability has far-reaching effects in Erica’s life. Things will be going great at a new placement and a new school for a few months, then wham, something will set her off and she goes awol for two weeks. By the time she’s back, she’s lost her placement and has to start over in a new school. She’s lost whatever progress she made at the previous school and the relationships she had started developing there. Now she needs to get used to a new placement, with new people and new rules, get re-enrolled at a new school with another mark on her record, not to mention deal with the trauma of what she may have experienced while she was awol. While she doesn’t share details with Robyn, she does hint at it. This roller coaster, especially now that Robyn holds educational rights and is intimately involved with the whirlwind of school personnel coming in and out of Erica’s life, is the hardest thing that Robyn deals with. Erica recognizes the importance of education and how it can open up opportunities for her, but the day to day consistency is really challenging for her. Robyn sees growth in Erica’s self awareness; it’s just the daily execution that’s difficult. But she is encouraged to hear Erica refer to drama in the group home, and say, “I want to fight back and say things but I know that’s not going to help me, so I won’t.” She sees proof that Erica is maturing, and that their conversations are helping Erica make better choices about who she wants to be and how she wants to react to things in her life.

While guiding Erica in how to react to challenges is part of Robyn’s job as her CASA, she is also constantly checking her own reactions to challenges. After all, being a CASA is not easy. “There’s a time commitment in being a CASA, but it’s really an emotional investment. The first couple of months was really difficult for me. You want to fix it and make it better, and you have to learn how to manage that.”  Robyn goes on to explain that when you are assigned your first case, you start getting exposed to your child and the issues you learned about in training, and you feel like, “I got this!” But as the relationship develops and your emotional investment increases, the role becomes more challenging because it’s your child, not a hypothetical scenario from training. As CASAs we sometimes want to throw money or more of our time at a problem, but our role limits us, and that can be hard to accept. When Robyn feels discouraged, or like she’s not making the impact she had hoped to, she reminds herself that her consistency and just showing up are what’s most important. And every once in a while, she gets a reminder from Erica. Someone at a meeting or a placement will say to Erica, “What about your CASA?” and Erica’s response will be, “Oh yeah, she’s not going anywhere!”

Robyn has become a constant in Erica’s life, and as such, Erica has developed some new CASA lingo. They have a standing joke they share. They might be listening to rap music in the car that Erica enjoys, and if the content becomes inappropriate, Robyn will jokingly say, “I don’t think that was CASA-approved!”  And the song will quickly be changed. Erica has taken the joke and made it her own. When she’s talking to Robyn and lets some profanity slip out, she will say, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t CASA-approved.”  Or she will start telling Robyn a story and stop herself, then slowly say, “Wait, this might not be CASA-approved…” Even though there is humor in it, the positive effects of Robyn as a mentor are visible. Erica is learning some healthy societal boundaries, and Robyn is teaching her how to be her best self.


Robyn’s Case Supervisor, Jeanette Arriaga, shares this about Robyn:

“I consider myself very lucky to be able to work with Robyn! Robyn has shown herself to be extremely committed and always makes sure to attend all meetings and stay informed of everything going on with her case, so she is able to advocate for Erica. Even after Erica goes awol for several weeks, Robyn stays committed and is there for her when she returns. After every difficult situation, she always makes sure to just show up to support Erica. Recently, Erica asked Robyn if she would hold her educational rights. That speaks volumes about Erica’s connection with Robyn and her trust that Robyn will be there for her consistently. Thank you, Robyn, for being such a pleasure to work with and for your commitment to Erica!”

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

CASA ROCKS - Media Alert

***MEDIA ALERT***

 

ELYSEWALKER, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NOBU NEWPORT BEACH, HOSTS SECOND ANNUAL CASA ROCKS PARTY TO BENEFIT COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASA) OF ORANGE COUNTY AND PRESENTED BY THE INFOCUS FOUNDATION

Evening to Feature Nobu Style Sushi and Sashimi, Specialty Cocktails, Live Performance by Crimson Crowbar, Live Auction, Customizable Ready to Wear for Men and Women by Madeworn and Personalized Sneakers for Men and Women by Golden Goose featuring a live artist.

WHO:            elysewalker Newport Beach, Nobu Newport Beach, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County, InFocus Foundation

WHAT:          elysewalker, in partnership with Nobu Newport Beach,hosts the second annual “CASA ROCKS” to benefit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County, presented by the InFocus Foundation.  The evening will feature 2 Nobu sushi and sashimi bars, signature bites, and Nobu Style cocktails as well as the opportunity to dance and sing along to premier Los Angeles acoustic rock duo,Crimson Crowbar featuring acclaimed musicians, Frank Simes & David Shelton.Attendees will also have the opportunity to customize their own Madeworn tee or jacket and Golden Goose sneakers featuring a live artist.  10% of all proceeds generated during the event will be donated to CASA OC.

WHERE:     elysewalker Newport Beach

3444 Via Lido

Newport Beach, CA 92663

WHEN:         Saturday, September 21st, 7:00pm-LATE

WHY:            Philanthropy is incredibly important to Elyse Walker.  After losing her mother to stage four ovarian cancer at the young age of 42, Elyse founded the Pink Party to benefit the Women’s Cancer Research Program at Cedars-Sinai.  The annual event took place over 10 years and brought in over 11.5 million dollars, with celebrities such as Jennifer Garner,Anne Hathaway, Jessica Biel, Leslie Mann, Kate Beckinsale, lending their name to the cause.

Since opening her second elysewalker store in 2016, located in Newport Beach’s Lido Marina Village, Elyse has been impressed with the difference CASA was making in their mission to serve neglected youth in the greater Orange County area. It was the perfect philanthropic partnership and so CASA ROCKS was born.  The first annual CASA ROCKS event took place on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, was attended by over 225 guests, and raised over $120,000 for CASA.

FOR ALL MEDIA INQUIRIES OR TO REQUEST A PRESS PASS TO COVER THE EVENT, PLEASE CONTACT:  ALEXANDRA LIPPIN, ALEX@ELYSEWALKER.COM OR 310.230.8882 EXT 32

EVENT WEBSITE + PHOTOGRAPHS FROM 2018 CASA ROCKS EVENT AT CASAOC.ORG/CASAROCKS

About elysewalker Newport Beach:

Situatedin a historic bank building in Lido Marina Village, the 12,000 square foot store features beautifully curated designer shop-in-shops including Walker’s new casual concept store for men and women, towne by elysewalker.  From couture to contemporary, spectacular fine vintage jewelry housed in the bank vault, denim bar, and beach shop,offering one of the most premiere, unique and exciting shopping concepts in the country.  As the fashion director and face of FORWARD by Elyse Walker (FWRD.com), Elyse brings her keen eye, buying expertise, eclectic personal style, and access to the world’s most-coveted designers to Forward’s international clientele. Serious about the business of fashion without ever taking fashion itself too seriously, elysewalker at Lido Marina Village offers a carefully curated selection of designers and a team of stylists to help each customer put it alltogether. http://www.elysewalker.com/

About Nobu Newport Beach:

Nobu Newport Beach is located within the luxe Lido Marina Village, providing the ultimate Nobu Style experience in the heart of the Orange County coast. With more than 16,000 square feet of stunning two-story waterfront space, including outdoor covered patio dining, an expansive bar& lounge, and the exclusive Grand Cordon Bar, Nobu Newport Beach provides the ideal setting to enjoy the inventive cuisine and exquisite service that Nobu is known for worldwide.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA):

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, we serve annually approximately 700 of the children who move through our court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates.  At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve.Please visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.                

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Advocate Spotlight - Julie Grable

This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Julie Grable!

“This whole experience has given me as much as I’ve put in. It’s changed the way I think about a lot of things, and bettered my life.” Advocate Julie Grable has been a CASA for just over a year, and recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with her CASA youth, 8-year-old Alexis.* “I may have been known to be a little judgy-judgy at points in my life,” she jokes. “It’s taught me to be less judgmental. For example, when I go into her home, it’s not necessarily how my home is or is structured. But she is loved. It’s not the way I would do it, but it’s working.” Julie’s open-mindedness makes us proud, but we understand that adjusting our lens is easier said than done sometimes. But Julie falls back on what she learned in training and encourages others to do the same. “Trust your training.  [CASA does] an amazing job. Trust what you have learned and refer back to it. I have my little notebook and I look back at it.”

When Julie set out to meet Alexis for the first time about a year ago, she didn’t know what to expect. As a new CASA, this was her first child assignment, and her first initial visit with a youth. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been more nervous for anything in my entire life than when I went to meet her. I was so scared; what if she doesn’t like me, what if I can’t communicate because of the language barrier. I was so nervous.” It didn’t help that Alexis’ aunt had her arms folded across her chest and a look on her face that said, “Who are you, and why are you here?” Julie’s Case Supervisor explained to Alexis’ aunt in Spanish what Julie’s role was, and that she was here as a volunteer. With the influx of people in and out of their lives, that seemed to be a concept that was difficult for her aunt to accept.  Her next question was, “How much do you get paid?” Again, Julie’s Case Supervisor explained that Julie makes no money and is here because she wants to be. It was at that point that Julie saw the aunt’s face soften.  Her next question was a little less pointed: “How long are you going to be around?” Julie’s answer: “However long you want me to be.” Three seconds after that, all of Julie’s nervousness faded away. It was at that point that Alexis peeked out from around a corner, with a smile that lit up the room. She ushered Julie to her room, gave her stickers, chatted with her, and asked for help with her homework. That’s when Julie breathed a sigh of relief and said to herself, “I can do this.”

Julie’s relationship with Alexis has been easy to form. Alexis is talkative, open to connection, and is just a happy kid. In many respects, how Alexis presents doesn’t match up with the history that Julie read about in her case file. Having suffered the loss of her mother, and having been sexually abused by her father, Alexis has been through more in her few years than most of us will have to endure in a lifetime. But you wouldn’t know it if you met her. A happy-go-lucky little girl, she doesn’t cry nor does she dwell on negative emotions or serious subjects.  Her therapy services were discontinued when her therapist reported there wasn’t a need to justify services. After attending a meeting at Social Services with Julie, Alexis announced, “That was fun!” It’s hard for Julie to ascertain if Alexis understands all that is going on in her life. Does she understand what these meetings are about? Does she know why there is court? Does she know why she was attending therapy? Does she know why Julie is in her life? This has been tricky territory for Julie to navigate.  On one hand, she wants to leave well-enough alone, and not push Alexis into talking about anything that she isn’t comfortable with. On the other hand, she wants Alexis to understand that she has an Advocate in Julie. That Julie is here to help ensure that Alexis’ needs are being met, and that it’s ok to have needs, and to not be happy all the time.  Alexis may not be ready to face some of what she has experienced, but she did lean on Julie for advocacy when she needed it. Facing pressure to attend monitored visitation with her father, Alexis told Julie, “I don’t want to see him,” but then went on to explain that she was scared for her baby brother to go to visitation without her. Although she may not want to discuss it, she knows that her father is not safe, and felt protective of her brother. She told Julie that if it would keep her brother safe, she would go. Julie’s heart melted at the sweet naivety and sacrifice Alexis displayed. She assured Alexis that her brother would be safe even if she didn’t go, and that it was not her role to keep him safe. She told Alexis that if she wanted to see her father, it was ok to feel that way, and if she didn’t want to see him, it was ok to feel that way too. This interaction gave Alexis the strength to find her voice, and communicate her wish to her therapist to not have visitation with her father. Sometimes teaching our kids to do their own advocacy is the biggest gift we can give them.

Julie comes with other gifts for Alexis. The first is her sheer presence. While Alexis is very loved at home among her relatives, Julie estimates that there are about twenty people living there. When Alexis is with Julie, it’s literally the only time that she’s one-on-one with anyone. It’s the only time she gets someone’s full attention, and that communicates to her that she is valuable. Julie recognizes the weight of this. Sometimes when Julie is with Alexis, her phone will ring, and Alexis will ask her if she is going to answer it. Julie’s answer is always the same, “No, I’m here for you.”  Another gift that Julie shares with Alexis is an extremely unique idea. Many Advocates will create lists with their youth of outing ideas, but Julie has added a fun twist to this. She and Alexis share a book titled, “Our book of ideas, plans, and fun together.” This book is kept in the back seat of her car, always within arms reach of Alexis and with a pen near it. The pages are used to document outing ideas, to chronicle outings that they’ve been on, and even to write notes to each other. When Julie took Alexis to the Aquarium, time was spent by Alexis drawing all the creatures they had seen in the book. When Julie first met Alexis, she let her know there would be rules, such as Julie would always need to be able to see Alexis on outings. Alexis took it a step further and suggested they create a contract in their book, then drew signature lines for both of them to sign on. When they go on outings, Alexis enjoys writing about their outing in the book, and always makes sure to date it.  She’ll ask Julie, “What’s the date?” and then scribble it into her book, importantly. And perhaps the most special aspect of this book is the exchanging of notes. Julie will write notes in the book for Alexis to find when Julie is driving. And Alexis will write notes back to her, for Julie to find after she has dropped her off. Notes like this recent one: “I love you Julie.”

Julie’s supervisor, Yariza Amaton, shares this about Julie:

“From the very beginning Julie has shown dedication to her CASA role and to her little one. Julie has been present at every court hearing and at every meeting to make sure that she can fully support Alexis and that she truly understands the ins and outs of her case. She always has great questions and wants to do whatever is within her role to make sure that Alexis’ needs are being met. Julie has a great sense of humor and truly understands her CASA role, but when in doubt she reaches out to me to ask questions and to makes sure she is performing at her best. Thank you, Julie, for being so dedicated to our organization and to Alexis!”

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

May 2019 Training Class

Thank you to Judge Erdosi who helped CASA-OC swear-in 24 new advocates who recently completed their 30 hours of training in the month of May and will be matched up with children on our wait list over the next few weeks. We are incredibly humbled to have all of these amazing community volunteers join our team in helping the most vulnerable children in our society. Bravo for yo

Advocate Spotlight - Barbara Prince

This month we shine our spotlight on Advocate Barbara Prince!

“Sometimes I think they make me better.” Barbara Prince, CASA of three years, refers to the two boys she’s been assigned to during that time. “I think I’ve been given an opportunity to see how different these kids are; what these kids have gone through to get to where they are today. I’ve learned a lot about them, and I’ve learned a lot about me.”

Barbara’s first child assignment, Cody,* was eleven when she first met him in the fall of 2016. On their first visit, Cody was very quiet and didn't talk to her. She had learned from CASA training to expect this, but still knew she needed to do something differently in order to engage him. At the end of their visit, they made a plan for their second visit: pumpkin carving. When the day of their second visit finally arrived, Barbara was prepared. She came stocked with pumpkins, carving utensils, and all the other goodies needed to have some fun carving pumpkins. She saw Cody come out of his shell a bit. She noticed that, as they each sat next to each other, working with their hands on a project together, Cody felt more at ease to talk. He connected with her more and seemed to enjoy himself! After that second visit, the rest of their visits went smoothly, with him always looking forward to seeing her. While they would enjoy outings together like seeing a movie, or going miniature golfing, Barbara’s real focus was on craft projects. She has learned that this is the way to get her youth to talk with her and engage. Even though many of us may not think of doing crafts with a young boy, Barbara has found some creative ideas that work! From making Mother’s Day cards, to painting Easter eggs, to decorating Easter cookies, she has found that both her boys have enjoyed these activities. Perhaps the most creative idea involved a calendar and some fruit! Barbara shared with Cody a calendar she had, that showed a different animal for each month, carved out of food! That prompted a trip to the grocery store, shopping for the right fruits and vegetables, and then carving them into animals just like the calendar. Cody loved the activity, and loved the time he spent with Barbara, talking and crafting - it was a win-win.

Distance of a different kind, not emotional but proximity, was one of Barbara’s biggest challenges with Cody. When she accepted his case, he was placed in Los Angeles county with a relative. While Barbara didn’t love the idea of driving to LA, she figured that making that drive is something not many CASAs can commit to, and with her being retired, she wanted to be the one that could. Cody’s placement went back and forth from Orange County to LA a few times, and each time she followed him. For those of us reading this and thinking that Barbara is a saint to commit to an LA case, let’s just up the ante a bit. Because of a busy family schedule, Cody’s caregiver restricted Barbara’s visits to a certain day and time of the week: Friday afternoons. Sometimes Barbara would spend two to three times the amount of time getting there and coming home from visits, as the time she would actually spend with him on a visit. At first she figured all the driving wouldn’t be a big deal since she was retired. But it was a big deal. An exhausting and frustrating big deal that took away from the time she could spend with Cody. Another challenge she faced was of a more serious nature. Cody had a congenital AV shunt, which is an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein, which is something like having a vein that doesn’t mature. Cody had seizures, was on medication, and had probably about five different brain surgeries. The most recent of his surgeries was during the time Barbara was assigned to him. Cody’s surgery was performed at the hospital that Barbara actually retired from, so she was given some special privileges to be in the pre-op area with him, and in recovery, and also to visit him every day. She marveled at how brave he was throughout the entire process. She saw a maturity in him that was unusual for his age. He’d had so many surgeries that this was just another one. Being able to be there for him during this time was one of Barbara’s most special contributions to Cody. He was obviously wowed by all the people that knew her and would come and say hello to her, and then stick around to talk with him. Being able to be there every day for him in an environment she was so familiar with, and to make his experience a little more cheerful, meant the world to her.

Barbara has also looked for other ways to leave a lasting impact on her boys. During each outing, she would take pictures of their activity. Pictures to document all their mini-adventures and all the things her boys were trying for the first time. “What I’ve learned is that one thing the kids don’t have is pictures.”  Imagine a childhood not punctuated by photos containing memories of where you’d been, what you tried, and what you looked like as each year went by? Barbara saw the gap this left, and the importance of her boys having their very own pictures to document their childhood experiences. So she made sure to take photos each time, and then she took those photos and put together a scrapbook. The book was kept in her car and one thing she noticed each time either of her boys got in the car, is that they would pull out the book, open it, and look at all the pictures. This became a ritual. They didn’t talk much; they just opened the book, started at the beginning, and flipped through page by page of pictures and memories. For most of our kids, there is not a lot in their lives that they can count on. There often isn’t concrete evidence of the joy and goodness in their lives. What Barbara created for them is a reminder, that she’s there to share in these experiences with them; that they really had these moments of happiness and they are documented forever for them to remember, and perhaps a glimpse of what others see when looking at them: A sweet and joyful young boy.


Barbara’s supervisor, Kari Becker, shares this about Barbara:

"It's been an absolute pleasure working alongside Barbara! I have witnessed the growth and development of her and her youth's CASA relationship via a memory scrapbook that Barbara has made for him. It is so neat and special to see all the fun things they do together. As we know, children in the foster care system come from very disruptive homes, and their memories are just that; but what Barbara has done for her youth highlights the importance of a CASA. A special person who creates new and positive memories in the midst of a very dark system. And I am sure her youth will forever remember her and the impact she has had on his life."

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

An Eye Opening Experience

An Eye-Opening Experience

By Garin Friedman

           Entering my sophomore year of high school, I began my involvement with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA assigns kids in the foster care system an"advocate" to be there and fight for the well-being of foster children as well as help them with anything a parent would similarly help their children. When I learned about this organization, I was a little hesitant to become involved. I was worried about how I would handle the incredibly sad stories of what these kids go through and align that with how fortunate I am. But I am involved in an impactful way, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

           Casting aside my hesitation, I started a club at my school called "Kids For CASA" to help the CASA organization spread awareness, raise money, help set up for events, and allocate funds. By doing this, it will help allow CASA to support and promote court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children to provide children with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes.Without a safe environment, how could one even have the ability to succeed in life? Having to worry about basic needs is not the job of a child, but without parents, they have no choice. I want to help give them that choice, that choice I had growing up. An equal opportunity everyone deserves.

           To help, Kids For CASA sold backpacks for 75 dollars at CASA's annual GALA in Orange County,California. The backpacks were stuffed with school supplies and a Target gift card that would be passed out to kids in the CASA system. Realizing the dread and annoyance I gave my mom having to go to the store and pick up school supplies, made me think these kids would kill to be able to go with their mom to Target and pick out the supplies they wanted. Upon presenting the backpacks to the members of the CASA organization, explaining what was in each, and where the money raised would go, they went flying off the shelves. We reached our goal of selling all 300 backpacks and raised 22,500 dollars. We did it for two years totaling 45,000 dollars in donations.

Another inspiring event was the Pinwheel Project. CASA displayed 3,100 pinwheels on a grass field, 500 red, 250 white, and 2,350 blue representing the number of kids in the foster care system. A red pinwheel represented the children CASA serves, white represented the number of kids on our wait list, and blue represented all of the other children in the Orange County Foster Care System. We stood around the pinwheels, and as people walked by, we helped spread awareness of what it all meant. After explaining to them about the pinwheel and seeing different peoples reactions, it made me think of what this means. I concluded that there are so many kids, living in the same community as me, that don't have the support and guidance that parents give. As high school came to a close, I didn't want to stop there. CASA has impacted my life way too much to stop after graduation.

           When I arrived at Indiana University, I felt freedom for a while, but then once I had to start doing my laundry, get my food, clean up my room, and not have anyone to bring me soup when I wasn't feeling well made me realize that kids in the foster care system have never had any of that. Realizing this accelerated the process of me starting Kids For CASA at IU. With the support of my fraternity and friends, I launched Kids For CASA and got an incredible backing. In about a week, I had over 100 kids join compared to the 30 I had in high school. The Monroe County CASA welcomed me with open arms.

           The first event Kids For CASA helped at was CASA's dine and donate at a local pizza shop called Aver's. When I went to Aver's Pizza, it was outside of the IU part of the city.It was apart of the real Bloomington community. I walked in with 13 of my friends, and right away, a kind lady comes up to us and asks, "please say you're with CASA." That support showed me that the community truly cares about CASA also, I have the backing from not only my classmates and friends but the community as a whole.

           The last experience I am going to touch on brought everything, in reality, the CASA Luncheon. I have never heard a full speech from an advocate, and never even seen a CASA child, but at this luncheon, I got to listen to both tell their stories. Hearing them talk put a true perspective on life in general. It gave me the chills. Here was a person around the same age as I stand up in front of a crowd of over a hundred people and share a story of her life. A story that entailed details no human should ever encounter. She touched on the impact of what CASA has done for her, which made me realize all this time and energy I have put into this organization the past four years is for the right cause.

           Kids for CASA changed my values and perspective on life. Instead of having the value of leadership, I have switched to compassionate leadership. There are two different types of leaders, those that think only one way with a firm set of unbreakable rules, and there are leaders who see and try to understand the other side. CASA has moved me to that other side, the right side. Also, it has shown me that not everyone is born with equal opportunity. I am fortunate to be allowed to join this extraordinary organization, one that has humbled me, made me more responsible, and well-rounded. It has helped me see life outside of my hometown bubble and explore and give back. I have a much greater appreciation for all the little things I get to experience with my family and friends, such as safety, encouragement, support, and love. All these things, everyone should be able to attain. Now let us continue to make this city, this community, and this world a place where everyone gets the opportunity to become who they wan tto become.

CASA Celebration Black & White Ball Nets Over 1.3 Million

Event Co-Chairs (from left to right): Bobbie Howe, Lourdes Nark, Dana Chou, Urvashi Patel, Barclay Butera, Nancy Eaton, Wendy Tenebaum and Dana Strader

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

Matthew Wadlinger

Chief Communications Officer

(714) 619-5149


CASA Celebration of Children Black & White Ball
Nets Over $1.3 Million With “Organically Grown” Themed Gala!


Santa Ana, Calif. (May 1, 2019) – Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County, held their annual Celebration of Children Black & White Ball, on Saturday, April 27, 2019, at the Hotel Irvine in Irvine, CA. 405 guests were in attendance to support CASA’s mission of serving abused, abandoned, and neglected children in Orange County with a trained and supported volunteer advocate. This year’s Gala had a net of over $1,300,000 and serves as the fifth year in a row that CASA has exceeded in breaking the previous year’s net and becoming the organization’s highest netting fundraiser in their 34 year history. This beautiful and elegant evening was executed by eight longtime CASA supporters who served as this year’s Chairs: Barclay Butera, Dana Chou, Nancy Eaton, Bobbie Howe, Lourdes Nark, Urvashi Patel, Dana Strader and Wendy Tenebaum. Evening festivities were themed “Growing Organically” and guests arrived to a transformed reception area at Hotel Irvine for a cocktail reception featuring a silent auction with 106 silent auction items including 16 “Chef Table” experiences to bid on.


Guests were welcomed into a ballroom that was beautifully transformed by the team at Elite OC Productions. Mark Sanchez, former NFL and USC Quarterback, and CASA-OC supporter, served as this year’s Masters of Ceremonies and helped to provide a lighthearted balance for the evening’s program. Regan Phillips, CASA CEO, offered sobering remarks on the critical importance of CASA’s work for youth in the foster care system – citing that “one in eight American children has suffered a confirmed case of neglect or abuse by age 18”, “there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care in the United States – over 70,000 of which are in California” and that “the total economic impact incurred by the California community for the lifetime costs associated with 71,289 substantiated victims of child maltreatment in 2017 was $19.31 billion”.

Chairman of CASA’s Governing Board of Directors, Ted Nark, presented the Tarsadia Foundation with the award for Foundation of the Year that was accepted by the family foundation’s patriarch, B.U. Patel. Michael Wong, Strategic Planning Chair on CASA’s Board of Directors, presented Twila True Fine Jewelry and Watches with the award for Outstanding Corporation that was accepted by Twila True. Mark Kerslake, Vice Chair on CASA’s Governing Board of Directors, presented Jeff and Jenny Gross on behalf of The William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation with the award for this year’s Children’s Champions for their commitment and support of CASA’s organization and mission (Jenny Gross is a current member of CASA’s Governing Board of Directors).

In the highlight of the evening’s events, CASA volunteer, Cathy Miner and her CASA kiddo and current foster youth, Ruben, presented the award for Advocate of the Year to La Mirada resident, Michelle Oliveira, for her outstanding work as a CASA volunteer since 2014. Michelle, a self-described “Tiger Mom” to four boys – aged 24, 19, 16, and 14, shared a gut-wrenching story of being matched with her current CASA kiddo that she mentors and advocates on behalf of, “My heart sank as I read about the night Frank entered the system and was transported to Orangewood. He had been living with his Dad, his Mom was unfit to care for him. At nine years old, Frank found his father dead in bed after passing away in his sleep. Throughout the night Frank had stayed by his Dads side, cleaning him and wiping his face. Eventually, someone was alerted and called 911 but it was too late. Once the police realized there was nobody to come be with Frank, a social worker was called to their home. She asked Frank if he understood what had happened to his Dad. Frank reported to her that “dead means when your soul leaves your body and goes to heaven. I know my Dad is not dead because I did not see his soul go to heaven””.


Auctioneer, Zack Krone, and Masters of Ceremonies, Mark Sanchez, revved up the crowd for the annual Fund the Mission which hauled in over $670,000 with donations from the guests ranging from $100,000 to $500. The live auction included a Dream Vacation Home Experience at the Villa Verai in Phuket, Thailand, donated by Twila True, which fetched a $37,500 donation. One lucky $15,000 bidder was able to choose from one of four jewelry pieces offered by Twila True, a Diamond Sponsor and exclusive Jewelry Sponsor for this year’s gala. Following the live auction guests headed to the dance floor to continue the party and celebrate the evening’s success with a concert performance by The Side Deal, an Orange County based band comprised of members of Sugar Ray and Train. Mark Sanchez joined the band for their first song, playing his guitar to the Sugar Ray classic, “Every Morning”.


About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, we serve annually approximately 700 of the children who move through our court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.

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March 2019 Training Class

Congratulations to our 32 new CASA volunteers that were sworn-in by Judge Keough last week after successful completion of their 30 hours of CASA training in the month of March. We are honored to have you all on our team and congratulate you for taking on this very important role for our foster youth in Orange County!

January 2019 Training Class

Congratulations to our recently sworn-in 29 new Court Appointed Special Advocates who completed their 30 hours of training in the month of January! We are so excited to have you on our team and we thank you for your commitment to our organization and community!

2019 Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon Chair Announcement

CASA of Orange County is thrilled to make the public announcement of our three chairs for the Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon happening on Wednesday, December 11th, at the Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point -- Sandi Marino, Debbie Masek, and Jennifer Gonzales Oxen.

Learn more about Sandi Marino, Debbie Masek, and Jennifer Gonzales Oxen below:

Sandi Marino’s years of volunteerism for Orange County non-profits began when she was a member of the PFO board at her children’s elementary school where she was inspired to take on the role of leading community outreach initiatives. These experiences gave her a first-hand view of children living on the streets and living in foster care, which sparked her desire to enhance her philanthropic efforts, specifically her involvement with an organization in which her contributions would help to improve the lives of others, especially children. It was at this time that she was introduced to CASA.

Sandi has been a volunteer for the Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon (FOCASA) for over 12 years, and has served as a chairperson on many committees, specifically as Chair for Entertainment for the last five years. Sandi is the Community Outreach Director on the FOCASA Executive Board of Directors which spearheads all volunteer opportunities for the seventy plus members of the auxiliary group.

Sandi is currently completing her degree in interior design at the Interior Design institute in Newport Beach. She recently launched her own interior design company and is already busy designing home interiors in Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar. Prior to being a stay-at-home mother for her two children, Sophia (17) and Enzo (14), she spent several years in corporate America, specializing in sales and marketing at various Fortune 500 companies. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Arizona State University in Communications and Broadcast Journalism, where she was also a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Sandi is originally from Scottsdale, Arizona where her extended family still resides, and has been a resident of Newport Beach for over 25 years. She loves to spend her time with her children and friends, and enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, skiing, and playing tennis.

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Debbie Masek has a long history of non-profit experience and philanthropic volunteer work in Orange County dating back to 2002. She volunteered with The Junior League of Orange County from 2002 to 2016 and was heavily involved in their biggest fundraiser, The Christmas Company, where she held various Executive positions. Debbie has also taken leadership roles on her son’s PTA Board.

Most recently, Debbie has pursued her passion for helping children through her volunteer work with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County. CASA is a local nonprofit that recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers working one-on-one with a youth in the foster care system. Debbie currently serves on the Friends of CASA (FOCASA) Board as Communications Director where she is responsible for overseeing the monthly FOCASA newsletter as well as keeping the FOCASA Board and all FOCASA members apprised of information pertaining to the CASA organization.

Debbie also most recently served as Public Relations Committee Chair for the 2018 Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon.  In the past, Debbie has served on various Committees for the FOCASA Holiday Luncheon including the Silent Auction, Operations, and Starfish Wishes. She continues to support her community as a 2017-2018 PTSA Board Member for El Rancho Charter School.

Debbie resides in Orange with her husband of 16 years, Joe, and their son, Chase, age 13. She spends her free time enjoying outdoor activities, traveling, and experiencing local restaurants with friends and family.

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Jennifer Gonzales Oxen has been involved with the Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon for the past several years. Although fairly new to the Holiday Luncheon, Jennifer has been an active volunteer in the Orange County community since moving to Orange County from Texas. Jennifer began volunteering with the Junior League of Orange County in 2007 and was actively involved in the organizations largest fundraiser, The Christmas Company, for many years. She continues to serve as a Junior League Sustaining Member. Because Jennifer is passionate about supporting causes tied to our local youth, she is particularly dedicated to supporting the CASA mission.

Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin and relocated to California to begin her career in employee benefit solutions. She serves as a sales consultant for Warner Pacific Insurance Services, offering expertise in medical and ancillary insurance needs, as well as employee benefit technology solutions.

Outside of professional and volunteer commitments, Jennifer enjoys time with friends and family, distance running, and travel. Jennifer and her husband, Randy, reside in Fullerton with their young son Jake.


Linda Zamora - New Chair of CASA Diversity Committee

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

Matthew Wadlinger

Chief Communications Officer

714-619-5149

LINDA ZAMORA SELECTED AS CHAIR TO CASA DIVERSITY COMMITTEE

Santa Ana, Calif. (February 19, 2019) – Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County is pleased to announce the appointment of Linda Zamora as the new Chair to the Diversity Committee auxiliary group. The CASA Diversity Committee was formerly known as the Hispanic Advisory Council, and changed its name to the Diversity Committee in January of 2018. The Diversity Committee supports CASA’s mission by actively spreading community awareness in order to grow a diverse pool of volunteers – with the primary goal of recruiting and retaining advocates that mirror the demographics of the children CASA serves. CASA currently has 486 community volunteers who have taken 30 hours of mandated training provided by the organization and have taken sworn oaths of confidentiality to officially become Court Appointed Special Advocates. Currently, the two areas of primary focus for the Diversity Committee are increasing the number of prospective individuals who identify as Hispanic/Latino(which account for 13% of the volunteers CASA has and 60% of the children served) and male individuals (which account for 19% of the volunteers CASA has and 49% of the children served).

The Diversity Committee is comprised of engaged community members who assist in the efforts of finding unique avenues to assist in the volunteer recruitment efforts of the CASA organization. CASA is honored to have Linda Zamora at the helm of the Diversity Committee. Linda has been an active member of this group since 2015. “I am looking forward to leading the CASA Diversity Committee as we develop both short-term and long-term strategies to help us meet our goals of recruiting more volunteers to work one-on-one with a child in the foster care system. The work that CASA does is critical to ensuring these vulnerable youth have a chance at a normal childhood and breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect that has been in many of their families for generations.. Knowing that CASA currently has a wait list of over 250 youth who need a CASA volunteer to mentor them and advocate on their behalf in an overburdened and underfunded system is the reason that I am passionate about this organization and leading the Diversity Committee”, said Zamora.

Linda Zamora has lived in Garden Grove since 2002. She was born in Ventura and grew up in Mexico. She moved back to the USA as a teenager.  Linda earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Literature & Culture and a minor in Latino Health Administration from California State University Long Beach. After CSULB, she attended interpreting school and obtained her state certification as a court interpreter. Linda started her own interpreting and translation business in 2011 providing services in most languages spoken in California.  Before becoming a business owner, she worked for Kaiser Permanente for close to 15 years in the Sales & Marketing department. She is an active Garden Grove community member. She served on the Garden Grove Planning Commission from 2013-2017, the Neighborhood Improvement Commission 2006-2010. She is now a board member of the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce and Co-Chair its Government Affairs Committee. To add more meaning to her life, she loves spending time with her two dogs, reading, cooking, hiking, visiting museums and recently learning about Stoicism a philosophy that grounds her and brings her serenity.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA serves approximately 700 of the children who move through the dependency court system due to being victims of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s most vulnerable children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit casaoc.org to learn more.                                                

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Learn more about the CASA Diversity Committee

Luminous Smiles

CASA of Orange County is incredibly proud to present our new partnership with Luminous Smiles of Newport Beach. Dr. Desai has graciously offered the services at her dentistry for youth in the foster care system and that are matched up with a CASA volunteer. Lizbeth, who is a non-minor dependent, was the first youth in our program to benefit from this extremely kind and generous offer. Her confidence has been lifted through the amazing work that Luminous Smiles has provided by fixing Lizbeth's smile through a dental restoration. We thank Dr. Desai and the entire team at Luminous Smiles for their commitment to helping others in our own community.

2017-2018 Annual Report

CASA of Orange County is proud to show off our Annual Report for the fiscal year of October 1st, 2017 through September 30th, 2018!

Check out the brand new annual report at this link: http://www.casaoc.org/2018annualreport

December Swear-In Ceremony

Congratulations to our newly sworn-in 31 Court Appointed Special Advocates. Thank you to our friend, Judge Arthur, who was able to come into the CASA offices on December 18th, 2018, to oversee the well attended swear-in ceremony for these special new volunteers!

2018 Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

Matthew Wadlinger

Chief Communications Officer

714-619-5149

FRIENDS OF CASA SET RECORD-BREAKING NET OF $452K+ AT ANNUAL HOLIDAY LUNCHEON

Santa Ana, Calif. (December 19, 2018) – Friends of CASA, a fundraising auxiliary of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), hosted its 2018 Holiday Luncheon on Thursday, December 13, at The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. The Luncheon and Fashion Show that began as a Holiday Tea is in its 23nd year of existence and has brought in over 4 million dollars since 1995. This year’s Luncheon had a record breaking net for the fifth year in a row – with more than $452,000 that will go directly to supporting CASA’s mission of recruiting, training, and supervising community volunteers who mentor and advocate for children in the foster care system.

The Luncheon was chaired by Melissa Rohani and Michelle Fisher, who were assisted by a team of over 85 members from the Friends of CASA (FOCASA) auxiliary group, which is led by the newly appointed FOCASA President, Lori Jackson. Five hundred and thirty guests filled the halls and decks outside of the ballroom to bid on 200 auction packages during the champagne reception. Guests were able to fulfill a foster child’s wish through ornaments placed on the “Starfish Wish Trees”, featuring 202 different wishes from the children in the CASA program which included items like dance classes, summer camp and a laptop computer for a college bound young adult. For the second year in a row the trees were sponsored and beautifully decorated by Barclay Butera Interiors.

The ballroom at the Monarch Beach Resort was beautifully decorated and styled by Elite OC Productions. Tory Burch created an immersive experience, down to the Tory Burch designed table cloths and napkins. This year’s fashion presentation by Tory Burch and South Coast Plaza featured Celebrity Fashion Stylist, Brad Goreski, on stage to help present the collections. Tory Burch showed 20 beautiful looks from the Resort 2019 collection, as well as the Spring/Summer 2019 Tory Sport collection.

This year’s keynote speaker was the 2017-2018 Miss Outstanding Teen Arizona, Dimon Sanders. Dimon shared her story of entering the foster care system in June of 2009 due to abuse by her biological father and neglect by her biological mother. “Over the course of my 5 years in the foster care system, I had 2 attorneys, 5 behavioral health specialists, 5 therapists, 5 case managers, attended 5 schools and lived in 13 different foster care placements. That’s a total of 35 people who came in and out of my life. My source of consistency was person number 36, my CASA”. Ms. Sanders proudly shared with the crowd that she was adopted out of the foster care system with the help of her Court Appointed Special Advocate and has since graduated college.

An opportunity drawing donated by Lugano Diamonds was a Diamond Bangle featuring 3.69cts Round Brilliant Collection VS Diamonds set in 18K White Gold which values for $20,000, was won by CASA Board of Directors Member, Susan Leibel.

Diamond Starfish Sponsors for this event include the Official Jewelry Sponsor, Lugano Diamonds, and Shiva Ommi. Ruby Starfish Sponsors are Michelle and David Fisher as well as Melissa and Parsa Rohani.

Friends of CASA are committed to raising funds for CASA of Orange County’s mentor-advocate program for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.  Through the annual Holiday Luncheon, the Friends of CASA raise awareness of the CASA program, recruiting volunteers and long-term donors to CASA. This year’s Executive Committee of the Holiday Luncheon was comprised by the following Friends of CASA members: Kimberly DeLamar Matties, Jennifer Gonzales Oxen, Jennifer Hanlon, Debra Klein-Sanner, Lori Jackson, Joanna James, Molly Jolly, Patty Juarez, Mei Li, Sandi Marino, Debbie Masek, Colleen Masterson, Sarah Minakary, Stefanie Stamires, Janine Wald and Marjie Zethraus.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA serves approximately 700 of the children who move through the dependency court system due to being victims of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s most volunerable children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit casaoc.org to learn more.

CASA Rocks at elysewalker

Regan Phillips, Elyse Walker, lisa Kassel


Dana Chou, Bobbie Howe, Lourdes Nark, Urvashi Patel, Wendy Tenebaum, Nancy Eaton, Dana Strader

CASA Rocks at elysewalker - Media Alert

Find more information casaoc.org/CASAROCKS

180 with Worm

Thank you to Paul Porter from Elev8 Industries for helping to coordinate this great video featuring CASA-OC.

Garth "Worm" Wyckoff put the spotlight on CASA-OC through an interview on his show "180 with Worm" with CASA-OC Chief Communications Officer, Matthew Wadlinger.

Check out his Instagram page at @lagunaworm to see more!

Learn more about Elev8 Industries by heading to www.goelev8.com

Custom Comfort Mattress

CASA of Orange County is pleased to announce our partnership with Custom Comfort Mattress. This amazingly generous and philanthropic company has donated two mattresses - along with a base spring, pillows, and sheets, to two foster youth in our program. One of these kiddos had been sleeping on the floor at her home and the other had grown so much over the last year that he no longer fit on the bed at his foster parent's home. We are incredibly grateful to have community partners like Custom Comfort Mattress that are willing to give back to this vulnerable population of youth in the foster care system. Learn more about their company at customcomfortmattress.com

September 2018 Training Class

Congratulations to our newly sworn-in group of 36 Court Appointed Special Advocates who recently completed their 30 hours of training during the September 2018 Training Session. We are so unbelievably proud of these new volunteers and excited for them to begin work on their first child assignment!

CASA Carnival | Kappa Alpha Theta | Chapman University

CASA of Orange County would like to highlight and give thanks to our amazing community partners at Kappa Alpha Theta from Chapman University for the amazing success that they had at their CASA Carnival Fundraiser. These young women were able to plan, organize and execute their own fundraiser and raised an astonishing $18,000 for CASA-OC!

July 2018 CASA Training Class

CASA-OC is proud to show off our 20 newly sworn-in Court Appointed Special Advocates that finished their 30 hours of training in July and got sworn-in on August 28th!

John's Picnic

Over 100 volunteers came together to help organize, prepare, and give back to children in the OC foster care system at the annual CASA Back to School Picnic, now referred to as "John's Picnic".

Special shout out and recognition to volunteers from Laguna Woods led by Jeanne-Nicole Beyers & Myrna Shannon who helped organize a fundraising effort to cover the costs of the backpacks and supplies. Kid volunteers from the Lion's Heart-Teen Volunteers and Leaders from Mission Viejo were on hand to help out the team at Laguna Woods Village in stuffing all of the backpacks and loading them onto the u-haul to bring to the park.

The picnic itself was held at The Mile Square Regional Park and attended by over 150 matches (150+ CASA kiddos and 150+ CASA volunteers) who had a blast thanks to the volunteers and organization of folks from the John Engstrom Foundation.

Kids were able to play games and activities at the park that was supported by additional volunteers from the Pacific Life FoundationEnlightened Heart Spiritual CenterOrange County Bar Association, Hyundai Capital America, and others. A special luau dance performance got the kids and advocates in the festive mood as their summer comes to an end and a new school year approaches on the horizon.

The picnic lunch this year was generously donated and catered by In-N-Out Burger, who supplied their famous truck that showed up and delivered tons of burgers, chips and drinks for everyone. Attendees were also treated to drinks courtesy of Maggie Loves Beans!

CASA of Orange County - Court Appointed Special Advocates is incredibly thankful to everyone who helped make this event so successful.

Photographs taken by Richard Becker

May 2018 Training Class

CASA is so proud of our 24 recently sworn-in advocates who just finished up with their 30 hours of training to become Court Appointed Special Advocates. On Tuesday evening Judge Arthur was able come to the CASA offices and make it all official in front of 90 guests in attendance.

Fashion Island Experience

CASA of Orange County would like to thank Fashion Island in Newport Beach for hosting a special day for three outstanding youth in the foster care system.

Three young women (two of which just graduated high school and one who recently finished her first year of college) and their CASA volunteers got to have a fantastic experience at Fashion Island. The day started with receiving a beautiful tote bag, and then continued on to Drybar, where all 6 women got their hair blown out and styled. Following that first experience, Happy Nails & Spa graciously gave beautiful manicures and pedicures.

Lunch came courtesy of Bloomingdale's 59th & Lex patio, where the ladies got to sit outside and enjoy a beautiful meal. After lunch the three young women got to end their trip with a mini shopping spree at Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. 

CASA is so appreciative to Fashion Island for creating this opportunity for these amazing young adults in our program and their three CASA volunteers. We would like to give a special thank you and shout out to Melissa Robles, Courtney Toney and Veronica Salgado Rico - for coordinating the special details that made this such a memorable experience.

"Or whatever..."

CASA Appreciation Day

Regan Phillips (CASA-OC CEO), Lily Colby (California CASA Policy & Program Coordinator), Andy Jacobson (CASA Case Supervisor), Jaynine Warner (CASA Board Member & former Friends of CASA President), Pat Cahill (longest serving CASA-OC volunteer - over 22 years!)

May 14th is officially CASA Appreciation Day! CASA of Orange County was fortunate enough to spearhead a joint effort with California State Senator, Josh Newman. Newman introduced SCR 131 on the senate floor that declares May 14th as CASA Appreciation Day in the state of California. Senator Newman and his wife Darcy Lewis are both former CASA volunteers from Orange County and have been major supporters of our organization. CASA was lucky enough to send some of our team up to the Capitol Building in Sacramento for this special recognition ceremony -- Regan Phillips (CASA-OC CEO), Andy Jacobson (CASA Case Supervisor), Pat Cahill (longest serving CASA-OC volunteer - over 22 years!), Lily Colby (California CASA Policy & Program Coordinator), Jaynine Warner (CASA Board Member & former Friends of CASA President).

More information and a video of Senator Newman on the floor for the recognition ceremony can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/SenatorNewmanCA/

March 2018 Training Class

Please join us in welcoming our 18 newly trained Court Appointed Special Advocates who will be joining our team of amazing volunteers who mentor and advocate for children in the OC Foster Care system! You can also check out a little video that chronicles their training session of 30 hours that took place in March!

CASA Pinwheel Project Success!

More information can be found at casaoc.org/pinwheelproject

Pinwheel Project

January 2018 Training Class

CASA is so proud of our amazing new 11 volunteer advocates who are getting to work on their new case assignments! Check out this little video that chronicles their training classes!

 

CASA Celebration 2018

Celebration 2018 Chairs: Dana Chou, Urvashi Patel, Lourdes Nark, Kay Patel, Lauren Wong, Wendy Tenebaum, Brenda St. Hilaire, Nancy Eaton and Cathy Frandsen Morrison

CASA Highlights

CASA of Orange County is proud to showcase some of the many highlights from our last fiscal year (October 1st, 2016 - September 20th, 2017) in our newest Annual Report! Check it all out at this link! Special recognition to Rogue Creative Development for the design, Classic Kids Photography in Newport Beach for providing all the photographs, the Kiersby Family for providing our beautiful child models and Applied Medical for printing the Annual Report.

CASA Holiday Party

One “fact” that is pretty much universally accepted by anyone involved in the life of a foster youth is that the holidays can be an extremely difficult time. While this is true, one doesn’t have to have the experience of foster care in order for the holidays to be a difficult time. There are a plethora of reasons that holidays may not be the most enjoyable time of the year. It may be that you or a loved one has to work; preparing for the friends and family you are hosting; remembering that you completely forgot the most wanted item on your child’s wish list; the possibilities truly are endless.

For the children we serve and many other foster youth the world over there are the “typical” reasons you might not enjoy the holidays as well as all the additional reasons circumstances create. A foster child might have just lost their placement and will now be spending their Christmas at Orangewood Children and Family Center. They might be living in a group home in which their closest friends will all be gone on overnight visits leaving them feeling alone. There may be memories of wonderful or awful previous holiday experiences that keep them on edge this year.

This is why amazing people like you reading this are so impactful! From the time the email is sent out in August inviting our faithful community partners to once again participate in our annual gift drive, to the day of the actual holiday party for our kiddos in December, people just like you step up and do what they can to bring joy and light to the lives of the children we serve. This support looks like companies holding general toy drives, accepting “snowflakes” containing a gift request from a child, signing up to wrap gifts, and working the holiday party.

All of this support allows us to ensure each child has gifts to open this holiday season, has books to read and give as gifts, and have happy memories that we hope they will never forget. Memories like dancing the “Macarena” even though the song was out long before many of them were born, participating in a lively dance-off, and interacting with the awesome deejay that gladly played the songs requested. And that was just one aspect of the party. Kids young and “old” ( aka, on any other day they would have been too cool for this) took a trip to the North Pole for a photo op with Santa. They got to be crafty and creative with jewelry making and cookie decorating, and silly at the photo booth.  And when they needed a break from all the awesomeness taking place, they went and ate a yummy lunch catered by El Pollo Loco and delicious gelato provided by Gelato Paradiso.

As a CASA employee and second-year holiday party helper, I can attest to the amount of work that goes into preparing for, setting up, and cleaning up for this festive shindig. Even still, seeing the smiles, hearing the laughs, and getting to dance with these wonderful and resilient children makes it all worth it. Dancing with a Michael Jackson impersonator or witnessing the utter concentration put forth to make a bracelet fills you up with so much happiness that there’s no room to think about the clean up. So while it might take a lot of help to pull this off, with the abundant help of so many volunteers, it is something CASA OC is happy to do.

Happy Holidays from our CASA family to yours!

CASA-OC Receives $2 Million Dollar Donation

PRESS RELEASE

Contact for CASA:

Matthew Wadlinger

mwadlinger@casaoc.org

(714) 619-5149

Contact for Gross Family Foundation:

Mark Porterfield

Mark.Portfield@outlook.com

CASA of Orange County Receives $2 Million Dollar Donation From Local Philanthropic Family

Santa Ana, Calif. (December 22, 2017) – Orange County resident, Bill Gross, and his children, have made a $2,000,000 donation to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County. Jenny Gross, a CASA Board of Directors’ member, and her husband Jeff Gross, have been offering financial and volunteer support to the nonprofit since 2012.

Jeff Gross, board member for the family foundation, states, “Our family is proud to support CASA of Orange County in its mission to advocate for the wellbeing of children in the foster care system - right here in Orange County. We have had the honor of seeing their work up close and have put forth these funds to ensure more financial stability and program growth.”

CASA of Orange County has seen referrals made by the Orange County Dependency Court Judges double since 2016, with approximately 220 children currently on a wait list, which is evidence of the effective and valuable work that these volunteers are doing on behalf of the youth. CASA served over 700 children in the foster care system last year through a unique one-on-one relationship with trained and supervised court appointed volunteer advocates. CASA works to ensure that these youth are safe, have a permanent home and an opportunity to thrive.

“I am still processing the news about this amazingly generous gift to CASA from Bill Gross and his children, myself, but on behalf of our entire CASA staff, I am so humbled and proud of the faith and confidence that this sizable gift communicates about our CASA mission and delivery of services to foster youth. I am profoundly grateful to Jenny and Jeff Gross for their commitment and dedication to CASA and to supporting the most vulnerable youth in our community through our program's services ” said CASA-OC CEO, Regan Phillips.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, we serve annually approximately 700 of the children who move through our court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.                                                            

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Orange County Business Journal - January 22nd, 2018

Regan Phillips announced as new CASA-OC CEO

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

Matthew Wadlinger, Advancement Manager

(714) 619-5149

 

Regan Phillips announced as new CASA-OC CEO

 

Santa Ana, Calif. (November 30, 2017) –Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County is pleased to announce the selection of Regan Phillips as the new CEO effective December 1st, 2017. Regan Phillips has served as the Chief Program Officer for CASA of Orange County for the last two and a half years. Prior to her role within CASA’s staff, Phillips served on the Board of Directors and assisted with fundraisers for the agency. Phillips notes that “my first contact with CASA, though, was over 15 years ago. I had obtained my undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California, and was working toward my Master’s degree in Social Work at Columbia University when I was assigned to a year-long internship at CASA in New York City. My experience with the organization led me to pursue a career in children’s rights advocacy”. Phillips attended Chapman University Fowler School of Law, during which time she worked as an investigator for the Law Office of Harold LaFlamme, a firm dedicated to representing dependent youth. Upon being sworn in as an attorney she accepted a position as minors’ counsel with the same firm, representing children in the foster care system. Phillips states that “having represented hundreds of children in the foster care system, I can state without reservation that a CASA’s involvement can be life-changing. Children—especially those in the foster care system—are often unable to identify or articulate what they need, or even what they want. Children rely on the adults in their life to pay attention, to care for them, and to ensure their needs are met. “The system” cannot replace a parent or loved one; however well-meaning and committed, the judicial officers, social workers, and attorneys working in dependency court are overburdened professionals performing a job”. Phillips long history of supporting her passion for CASA volunteers made for the logical transition from Chief Program Officer to Chief Executive Officer, “a CASA is simply a responsible, committed adult, with an open heart and an open mind; someone who spends time getting to know a youth, and who cares about what happens (or doesn’t happen) to them; someone who will speak up when someone needs to. A CASA humanizes the case for the professionals, while reinforcing to the youth that she is not invisible. Simply stated, a CASA is a hero!”.

 

Kathryn Seebold, who has served as the CEO for CASA of Orange County since December 2014 states“I am confident that Regan will lead the organization to the next level and will do so with the intelligence, grace, elegance and wit that she has shown the past two and a half years as our Chief Program Officer”. Kathryn Seebold will be relocating to Boise, Idaho with her husband, Dan Seebold, later this year. Mrs. Seebold has been a catalyst in stabilizing the fundraising for the CASA-OC agency - since her tenure began CASA’s two biggest fundraisers, Celebration of Children Black & White Ball and the Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon have continuously generated a larger net for the agency year after year and also assisted with crossing the threshold of becoming a 3 million dollar revenue non-profit, one of only 130 in Orange County. “With a dedicated Governing Board, committed staff and passionate volunteers we accomplished what we set out to do. We strengthened CASA as an organization internally and externally. We raised our profile within the community thanks to each and every one of you sharing your experiences with family, friends and colleagues. We raised the bar on fundraising goals and everyone came together to ensure that not only would we meet those goals, but exceed them, year after year. I’m so thankful for your commitment and support of CASA – without your dedication we could not have accomplished these goals. I will always cherish my time at CASA and the friendships I have made. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful organization – it was truly an honor to serve as your CEO”.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, CASA serves approximately 700 of the children who move through our court system annually as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve by visiting casaoc.org

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To Foster Change

PBS SoCal recently launched To Foster Change, a public media initiative aimed at changing the realities and life outcomes for Southern California's foster youth. Using the power of public media, To Foster Change aims to tell stories that will encourage understanding, inspire hope, and spark dialog and action that will help our region's foster youth thrive. It also aims to convene with those working in the foster youth community to encourage collaboration, advance creative solutions, and reach out directly to transition-age youth to give them tools that they can use to find more success in life, school and career. A spotlight has been completed on CASA of Orange County that features our Chief Program Officer, Regan Phillips,  one of our Case Supervisors and former volunteer advocates, Nina Hamilton, and Presiding Judge Maria Hernandez. We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful initiative and we encourage you to watch this short video and share it with your networks.

Check out more at this link

Ode to CASAs

CASA-OC is immensely grateful to our hardworking and dedicated volunteers. We appreciate the challenges that can come with the CASA role. We want to assure you that you are valued. Our agency could not exist without you.

Ode to CASAs

Sugar and spice and everything nice

Emails and meetings and court reports to write

Patience, compassion, and lots of driving too

The ability and willingness to put yourself in your youth’s shoes

So many acronyms it’s like alphabet soup!

Joy and laughter, but a little heartache too

Phone calls to make and outings to plan

“Just 25 bucks a visit? I’m not sure I can!”

30 hours of training is just the beginning

Creating advocacy goals keeps heads spinning

Typical teenager that cancels at the last minute

Biting your tongue when you hear language that’s explicit

Social worker email addresses are the longest you’ve ever seen

Hours in court sometimes makes you want to scream

Sometimes you’re unsure of the impact you make

But you don’t give up because you know what’s at stake.

One year or two, maybe 10 plus years down the line

You get a call from your kiddo thanking you for your time

Or maybe on that initial meeting you’re surprised with a hug

So unexpected that you can’t wipe the grin off your mug

Baking adventures and maybe a tantrum here and there

You take it in stride because you know they are scared

New memories, new challenges, and sometimes defeat

No matter what comes your way your heart won’t let you retreat.

© 2017 Amber Boggs

July 2017 Training Class

CASA of Orange County is proud to showcase our recently trained and sworn-in advocates from our July 2017 Training Session. We are looking forward to getting these new CASA volunteers matched up with a child on our wait list.

John's Picnic

There are times over the course of everyone’s life when someone does something so amazing that a simple thank you does not feel like an adequate expression of gratitude. You rack your brain trying to come up with the perfect combination of words to write in your thank you note. You may wonder and worry about how you will ever be able to repay such an act of kindness. The stress of it all keeps you from remembering something you already know: repayment was not expected, nor is an elaborate or eloquent thank you required. The act of kindness bestowed upon you was simply that – an act of kindness. It was not a debt to be repaid or an expectation of gifts and grand gestures in return.

CASA is fortunate to have such a person partnering with us and supporting our mission to change the lives of foster children. Sharon Engstrom is one of those individuals with a seemingly infinite capacity for giving, and a humble spirit that does not want or need recognition. Yet we want to recognize her nonetheless because this year Sharon went above and beyond for CASA and the children we serve, taking her generosity to the next level.

Sharon and her husband Jay suffered the tragedy of losing their son, John Michael Engstrom, to leukemia. To honor their son’s life and legacy, they created the John Michael Engstrom Memorial Foundation to help youth. After learning about CASA from a friend who is an advocate, Sharon decided she would like CASA to be one of the John Michael Engstrom Foundation beneficiaries, thus, “John’s Fund” was formed. For several years Sharon’s generosity and John’s Fund has allowed CASA to meet the needs of hundreds of children we serve. These funds have covered a range of expenses, such as tutoring costs, laptops, and so much more.

This year, in addition to John’s Fund, Sharon took on CASA’s annual Back to School Picnic! By “took on”, I mean she handled this event in its entirety. Sharon and her friends prepared, planned, and worked the picnic. In previous years, with the much appreciated help of volunteers, CASA staff were heavily involved in preparing for and working the event. This year we served as extra support because Sharon and her friends had everything, and I mean everything, covered. They took the picnic to new heights! A picnic which was aptly named “John’s Picnic”. John’s Fund and John’s Picnic could be named virtually anything, but using John’s name is another way we honor his life. This year naming the event John’s Picnic also solved the ever-present issue of maintaining our kiddos’ confidentiality and ensuring the event was identifiable without having CASA in the name or on the signage.

After I quickly realized I would be more in the way than helpful, I decided to wander around and check out all of the activities offered. There was face painting, airbrush painting, caricature artists – and that was just one small corner of the picnic! I saw boys and girls turn into Spiderman, butterflies, and grinning ear-to-ear at their cool “tattoo”. A group of boys of all ages were giving volunteers a work out as they channeled their inner Babe Ruth and hit balls so far they even surprised themselves. As someone with zero aim, I looked on with pride (and a teeny tiny bit of jealousy) as one dominated the bean bag toss, making every single one with seemingly no effort. Advocates and their kiddos laughed at each other as one or both of them struggled to keep their hula hoops up. Bubbles were blown, cookies were decorated, and art was created.

In all of this fun and greatness, you wouldn’t think anything could be done to make it much better, but there was! There was live Hawaiian music and the kiddos were able to give hula dancing a shot. One little boy stole the show, and likely a few hearts, as the first brave soul to dance. Even with so many eyes on him, there wasn’t an ounce of shyness and he looked like he was having a blast. That’s still not the best part! Not only was there live Hawaiian music, there was a live performance of hula dancing. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I felt like I was on a Hawaiian vacation, enjoying a luau.  And Sharon Engstrom made all of it happen.

Thank you notes were written by kiddos and advocates alike. They thanked the volunteers for their time, shared how much fun they had, and for the entertainment. One of my favorite thank you notes had a donut on it (because who doesn’t love donuts!) and said, “Dear CASA volunteers, thank you for being so generous, creative, and awesome!” I think that note hit the nail on the head and expressed what so many others were also thinking. One kiddo had such a good time that he expressed his thanks with four notes.

From setup to cleanup, Sharon and her friends had all hands on deck. Their time and hard work didn’t just result in our kiddos having a great time. There were advocates expressing how impressed they were to one another as well as their case supervisors. All of the volunteers looked like they genuinely enjoyed being there. It was a good day for everyone all around! To top it all off, before all the CASA staff went into full panic mode wondering how we could possibly follow suit for next year’s picnic, Sharon informed us she would like to handle the event next year as well, allowing us to breathe easy while simultaneously proving her capacity for giving is seemingly infinite.

John’s Fund and John’s Picnic not only honor John Michael Engstrom’s life, they touch and brighten the lives of our youth. Sharon Engstrom is truly a selfless and humble individual. CASA is honored to be in partnership with her.

Elev8 Partnership

CASA is pleased to partner with Elev8 Industries to Elev8 Awareness and Elev8 our Youth! Elev8’s mission is to offer quality products that are designed to support an active lifestyle while creating awareness and support for at risk children… to change the life of a child.

Not only will a portion of the purchase price from every single sale go to CASA upon selection, Elev8 will also hold and support events in Orange County to generate awareness, to solicit much needed funds, and to give CASA children the opportunity to experience a world of sports to which they have never been introduced.

“We want to get them outdoors, get them active and to provide them with the relationships and experiences that not only assist in creating a positive outcome, but promote the opportunity for a successful future.”

-Elev8 Industries, Inc.

Shop the complete collection at GoElev8.com!

More than Just a Pinwheel

You may have heard the buzz – or even witnessed it firsthand – about CASA OC’s Pinwheel Project. Bear with me as I talk about it yet again.

For Foster Care Awareness Month, CASA OC displayed 3,000 pinwheels at Dana Point Harbor. Thanks to wonderful volunteers it looked amazing. But why would anyone donate their time, give up their Sunday to spend it hunched over, sticking pinwheels in the ground only to remove them several hours later? While I cannot speak for each volunteer individually, it’s safe to say they gave their time because this project was about more than just a pretty display of pinwheels.

Those 3,000 pinwheels represented the 3,000 children in Orange County’s foster care system. Three thousand children that have endured abuse and neglect, removal from their homes, and countless other traumas in their lives. Volunteer groups from the Capital Group, PIMCO and our Kids4CASA auxiliary consisting of high school students from Corona del Mar happily assisted CASA OC in making the community aware of these often forgotten children because they wanted CASA to continue to be able to fulfill our mission of recruiting, training, and supervising community volunteers who work one-on-one with a child in the foster care system.

At the time this was written 1,587 pinwheels have been sponsored, leaving 1,413 more to reach our goal of having all 3,000 sponsored. Just as we hope all 3,000 pinwheels will be sponsored, we hope the day soon comes that any of the 3,000 children that want a CASA can have one.

Help CASA spread awareness about the children in Orange County that we serve by sharing www.casaoc.org/pinwheel on social media platforms and sharing with friends and family. Let’s make sure Orange County does not forget about these vulnerable children!

Photographs from the event can be found on our Faceboook Page

An Advocate's CASA Gala Experience

Saturday, April 22nd CASA’s annual gala took place. Aptly named “Celebration of Children”, the event netted over 1 million dollars for our agency. One million dollars from individuals and corporations in our community, because they believe in the value and necessity of CASA.

As a CASA staff, it’s easy to speak about how amazing the agency is. After all, I come to work each day to witness colleagues put their hearts in to fulfilling our mission statement. We all come to work ready and willing to do our part. Any one of us could speak on our passion for CASA and the work we do. However, I want to share an advocate’s perspective. Who better than CASA’s “Advocate of the Year”, Andrea Schoembs?

This is how Andrea describes her Celebration of Children experience:

When I heard the news that I would be receiving the 2017 Advocate of the Year award from CASA I was in disbelief. I know how hard all of the CASAs work on behalf of their kiddos so it was hard for me to comprehend why I would be singled out for such an incredible recognition. I also knew the event would be an awesome experience. Little did I know it would become one of the most memorable nights of my life!

It goes without saying that the recognition was amazing, but the most incredible part of the evening was witnessing the generosity of those who attended the event. Following my speech and the moving speech given by Honorable Judge Maria Hernandez was the annual “Fund the Mission”. Guests were asked to give donations ranging from $500 to $100,000. In what seemed like minutes over $500,000 was raised!  The energy in the room was palpable. I have been to many fundraisers and I have never seen anything like it. The more paddles that went up to give donations, the more energized the room became. In that moment I was so proud to be a part of something that I know will benefit so many wonderful children in need.

As a CASA, I’m certain that Andrea has experienced some difficulties with her case. I can imagine she has had moments she felt as though she wasn’t doing enough. She may have felt overwhelmed by the advocacy needs of her kiddo. She might have loathed the court report writing process that comes with this gig. Whatever experiences Andrea has had, she has remained committed to her kiddo. So much so that her case supervisor believed she deserved to be recognized at CASA’s biggest event.

While Andrea felt proud to be part of something bigger than herself, there were most certainly people in the room who felt proud to contribute to CASA based on what Andrea shared that evening. CASA could not exist without advocates like Andrea or generous donors that raise over $500,000 in a matter of minutes. Both are needed in order to continue to serve our foster youth.

Whichever category you find yourself in, please know we are infinitely thankful for you!

CASA Celebration of Children 2017

Celebration 2017 Co-Chairs, Dana & Tom Chou, Michelle & David Fisher and Susan & Dennis Leibel
Clockwise from top, Advocate of the Year, Andrea Schoembs, Judicial Honoree, Presiding Judge Maria Hernandez and CASA CEO, Kathryn Seebold, (second picture) Patty Juarez accepting on behalf of Wells Fargo for the Outstanding Corporation Honor, Children's Champion Honorees - (third picture) Lourdes & Ted Nark and (fourth picture) Wendy & Larry Tenebaum

Empowering OC Youth: One Volunteer at a Time

This article originally appeared in the Orange County Bar Association's "OC Lawyer" April Magazine.

CASA: Empowering OC Youth, One Volunteer at a Time

Orange County Juvenile Court maintains jurisdiction over the nearly 3,000 youth who have been adjudged “dependent,” pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 300. These are children who were removed from their homes for reasons relating to abuse and/or neglect resulting from a parent or guardian’s inability to adequately supervise or protect the child. The total number of affected youth are at varying stages of their dependency proceedings—some of whom may be actively reunifying with their parents while others have no involved family members, no known prospects for a permanent or “forever” family, and will likely emancipate from the system alone, and without any support, into our Orange County community. The bench officers, attorneys, and social workers working within our Juvenile Court system each oversee overwhelmingly large caseloads. Add to this fact the inherent deficiencies of a heavily bureaucratized foster care system, and the result is far too often that important, life-altering decisions are made based on insufficient information and with a lack of individualized attention to the specific needs of each youth. This often facilitates a vicious and ongoing cycle—in essence, dependency begets more dependency.

These have long been the struggles for the dependency court system. In 1977, and with these firsthand observations in mind, a Seattle Juvenile Court Judge, developed a program whereby citizen volunteers could be empowered to speak up for the best interests of dependent children in the courtroom: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Ultimately, the value and utility of this program became undeniable, the role became a codified part of the dependency process, and there are now nearly 1,000 CASA programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia. CASA of Orange County, a predominantly privately funded non-profit organization, began in 1985, with tremendous support from Junior League. Since CASA OC’s origins, over 3,000 community volunteers have served over 6,000 youth within our foster care system; and the stories of change and transformation are as compelling as they are heartwarming. 

The primary duties of the CASA volunteer are outlined in Welfare and Institutions Code section 102, which are described as follows: (1) Provide independent, factual information to the court regarding the cases to which he or she is appointed; (2) Represent the best interests of the child involved, and consider the best interests of the family, in cases to which he or she is appointed; (3) At the request of the judge, monitor cases to which he or she has been appointed to ensure that the court’s orders have been fulfilled.

A CASA volunteer need not have any legal experience or understanding of the field of social work to apply—the criterion is primarily that a prospective advocate be an adult (21+) with an open heart, an open mind, and a desire and willingness to help. To prepare volunteers for their role and interactions with some of the most vulnerable children in our community, CASA provides a comprehensive thirty-hour initial training for prospective volunteers who must also clear a background check, screening, and an interview process before they are sworn in as an officer of the court.

The matching process is intended to create a CASA/youth pairing that is thoughtful and complimentary, resulting in a meaningful and consistent relationship, (many of which regularly outlast the youth’s dependency term), however CASA volunteers ultimately occupy a role that is far more comprehensive than that of a mentor or “buddy” to the youth with whom they are paired. When the court makes a referral for a CASA volunteer, there is typically a specific reason or need and the advocate is entrusted with the responsibility to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the court, and to report back with relevant and helpful information at legal proceedings. The youth’s identity, circumstances, and the dependency proceedings themselves are confidential, however the appointment order confers access to this highly protected information, and further grants the CASA a voice in the outcome.

The appointment order allows advocates to contact a youth’s family members, caretakers, social workers, therapists, and educators. CASA volunteers often participate in meetings that affect a youth’s placement or educational issues, and, on occasion, may be asked to hold educational rights on behalf of a youth who has no other involved person to approve educational decisions that affect the child. CASA provides regular and ongoing training opportunities for advocates so they may develop a more in-depth understanding of the unique issues they might face on a case.

Our juvenile court bench officers are very supportive and grateful for the service our CASA volunteers provide. Dependency Judge Gassia Apkarian notes, “On a daily basis, sitting as a dependency judge, I find myself charged with the awesome responsibility of making sure the children under my jurisdiction are safe . . . . For this, I rely mainly on social workers and minors’ attorneys to keep me apprised and aware of any changes that require my attention. However, I never have insight into how my kids are getting along on a daily basis, whether the services we are providing are helping them, whether there is a particular need a child has that no one has time to understand or tend to. Each child is unique, with a special set of circumstances, intellect, and emotions, and they each need individual attention. And for this, I turn to CASA. . . . The type of information I receive from each CASA volunteer is priceless with the insight they have into their children’s world, and their commitment to advocate on their behalf. When I see a CASA volunteer in my courtroom, I know the child they are assigned to is in better hands than the one who does not have an assigned CASA. I wish there were enough CASA volunteers so I could appoint one to each of my kids in dependency.”

Todd Smith, an attorney with Umberg Zipser LLP, has been a CASA volunteer since January 2015 and is matched with an 11-year-old boy. About his decision to become an advocate, Todd shared this, “Being an attorney in Orange County, I had heard a lot about CASA and had spoken with CASA representatives at various bar functions over the years. I had been wanting to get more involved in a community-based organization and, with my legal background, CASA seemed like a perfect fit. After learning about the enormous need for CASA volunteers (especially male volunteers) to serve the foster youth in Orange County and the lasting and meaningful impact that a CASA advocate/mentor could have in the life a foster youth, there was no turning back.”

David Nusz, a partner with Black and Rose LLP, is currently working with his second CASA youth and is one of our many volunteers who initially learned about CASA through an informational video that previously aired for many years at Orange County Superior Court to prospective jurors awaiting potential assignment in the jury duty room. As a recipient of services through the Big Brothers organization himself, David understood all too well the impact of such a role and how one person can truly change someone’s life; “My attraction to CASA was in part, based on the sad statistics for young adults who were foster youth in terms of employment, graduation, housing, and incarceration. I was intrigued by the opportunity to become not only a mentor for these youths, but also an advocate that would be actively involved in every aspect of their lives.”

State Senator Josh Newman, recently elected to represent California’s 29th Senate District, served as a CASA to a youth from Buena Park from 2014-2015. His initial exposure to CASA was through his wife Darcy’s employer’s community outreach efforts, where members of Pacific Life Insurance’s ‘Good Guys’ program volunteered to support a number of CASA of OC’s annual events. As a result of their volunteer experience, they attended an informational session and decided to serve as CASAs. “Serving as a CASA was one of the most rewarding personal experiences I’ve ever had,” said Newman. “Any reservations I might have initially had about the time commitment were immediately offset by the reward in being able to share time with my CASA child while playing a fundamental role in ensuring that his case received proper attention while he progressed through his program, all the way to his successful reunification with his parents last year. A wholly unintended benefit of my CASA experience is that now, as a member of the State Legislature, I hope to have the opportunity to apply the insights I gained as a CASA to help support and improve the foster care system in California, while educating others on the immense benefits that a robust, fully supported CASA program can bring to California’s foster youth.”

After the initial training, volunteers are told to anticipate a commitment of 10-15 hours per month over a minimum of two years. Attorney Amy Guldner, who has been a CASA for nearly ten years, admitted she was concerned about this initially, “The monthly time commitment was indeed something that made me question whether this was the right thing for me to do, especially as a mother of two young children myself, but even after a really busy volunteer month, I’ve never regretted my decision to be a CASA. I think balance is an elusive concept and I don’t think I maintain it any better than anyone else. What has worked well for me though is getting my family on board with my CASA obligations and helping them to appreciate that they too are serving/helping when they ‘share’ me with a foster youth. My kids will hopefully always know that they are loved beyond measure by their parents and so many other adults in their lives, and they are learning through my CASA volunteer work that all children are not so fortunate. I try to emphasize to them how amazing they are for ‘sharing’ me with those kids who don’t have anyone in their corner, and I think this has helped them be more supportive of the time I spend with CASA.”

Deborah Wesseln, an attorney with Sutton and Murphy, finds that her professional experience pairs nicely with this volunteer role. “As attorneys, we are trained to be advocates. We are trained to write and communicate clearly so the responsibility of communicating with the court is familiar. One of the primary duties of a CASA is to listen, be present and support the youth. When appropriate and necessary, we advocate for the best resources for our youth. While certainly, it is not the same as the relationship we have with our clients, as attorneys we are uniquely trained for the CASA role.”

For these children, whose young lives have been afflicted with trauma through no fault of their own, and who are then assigned a file number becoming a “case” for a variety of paid professionals to oversee, it’s not lost on them that a CASA volunteer is making a choice: they are choosing to be there, to care, and to try to make a difference in their life. That simple fact can be the single-most motivating factor for a youth to care about their own life. It truly only takes one person whose volunteerism is a clear demonstration of concern, compassion, and commitment which has a capability to instill a level of self-confidence and self-awareness that can turn this dependency cycle around.

Our agency only works due to the willingness of community volunteers stepping up to the plate and giving their time on behalf of a child in the foster care system, as well as the generous donors who assist our efforts in the recruitment, training, and supervision of the CASA volunteers. We ask for your help in spreading awareness for both of these needs to assist in our efforts to make Orange County a stronger community – one child at a time. The first step is to register for an upcoming Informational Session which can be done at www.casaoc.org

 

Regan Dean Phillips, Esq., M.S.W., is the Chief Program Officer for CASA OC and can be reached at rphillips@casaoc.org

Chefs in the Making

Since the holiday months, there has been a steady stream of advocates and their CASA youth cooking in CASA’s kitchen. This has been a particularly pleasant experience for the case supervisors as the hunger inducing aromas waft down the hall. It’s safe to say the smell of cookies, cupcakes, and other sweet treats is an office favorite. Even better than the yummy aromas is witnessing these youth in the kitchen.For many, this is the first time that they’ve cooked or baked regardless of age.

Depending on when you peek your head in, you’ll find the youth looking fiercely determined to carry out their advocate’s instructions, or laughing and smiling as they decorate their treats or joke about mistakes made. You’ll find the advocate patiently explaining things and praising their youth for their effort and skills. These moments are greatly appreciated because as case supervisors, the opportunities to see our advocates with their youth are few and far between. Whether the relationship is a new one or the advocate has been on the case for several years, there’s an unmistakable joy to be together. As if that isn’t heart-melting enough, seeing a youth’s pride in themselves when they get something right.

During one of these kitchen sessions in which at least 2 dozen cookies were being baked and decorated, our Chief Program Officer, Regan Phillips popped her head in to say hello. I happened to be walking to the kitchen to check in on my advocate and youth when I overheard the best thing I’d heard all day. Claire*, my advocate had just finished explaining to Regan that this was 7-year- old Liz’s* first time baking. Regan complimented Liz on how well she was doing, saying, “Wow. Well you must be a fast learner if this is your first time!” To which Liz replied, “I am a fast learner because I’m really smart!” Claire, Regan, and myself could only agree with that declaration. To see Liz’s excitement in baking and decorating, was great a pleasure all on its own. But to hear Liz confidently exclaim her smarts took the cake (pun intended)!

In the CASA kitchen, it seems everything else falls away. Here, they are determined, happy, and undoubtedly getting amped up on the sugary decorations they think they are sneaking. These kiddos likely face daily reminders of the fact that they are foster youth, whether it be classmates wondering why different people pick them up from school on different days, or at a doctor appointment where a staff person is writing their job title next to their signature when signing documents. One could say even being in the CASA kitchen is a reminder, and they would be right. Yet for some reason, these visits are full of nothing but joy. And though the aromas eventually fade, in what seems to be a new unspoken rule, advocates and their youth leave lovely thank yous on our whiteboard.

 Thus far, there hasn’t been a single time that the finished result wasn’t eagerly offered to be shared. And who can turn away a child offering up cupcakes and cookies with at least 7 times the daily recommendation of sugar? I know I couldn’t! I can confidently say that our entire office enjoys our visiting sous chefs and advocates and returns are always encouraged.

 If you’d like to reserve CASA’s kitchen please contact your case supervisor. We’ll see you soon!

February Swear-In

CASA of Orange County is thrilled to show off the graduates from our January Training Session. Twelve of our new fifteen CASA volunteers were sworn-in by Judge Maria Hernandez last week at our offices in Santa Ana. We are looking forward to matching up these new CASA advocates with children on our wait list. Congratulations to all!

December Swear-In

Congratulations to our 30 new advocates who were sworn-in last week by Judge Moorhead! We are excited to get all of these amazing new volunteers matched up with some of the 280+ kids that are currently on our wait list. Congratulations to you all and we are looking forward to seeing you all begin your journey of being matched with a child in our program!

Friends of CASA Holiday Luncheon

PRESS RELEASE

Contact:

Matthew Wadlinger

Director of Outreach

 (714) 619-5155

 

Friends of CASA Set Record-Breaking Net at Annual Holiday Luncheon & Fashion Show Supporting CASA of Orange County!

 

Santa Ana, Calif. (December 14, 2016) – Friends of CASA, a fundraising auxiliary of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), hosted its 2016 Holiday Luncheon on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at The Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point. The Luncheon and Fashion Show proved a hard ticket to come by as the event was sold out prior to invitations even hitting mailboxes. This year’s event netted more than $344,000 that will go directly to supporting CASA’s mission of recruiting, training, and supervising community volunteers who mentor and advocate for children in the foster care system. Top Tier Diamond Starfish Sponsors of this event included Barclay Butera Interiors and Lugano Diamonds.

 

The sophisticated yet modern event was co-chaired by Molly Jolly and Kimberly DeLamar Matties, who were assisted by a team of over 60 members from the Friends of CASA auxiliary group, which is led by Interim President and CASA CEO, Kathryn Seebold. This year’s event also had two Masters of Ceremonies, Barclay Butera and Ray Langhammer of Barclay Butera Interiors, who brought their unwavering passion of helping CASA forward throughout the event. Over 600 guests filled the halls outside of the ballroom to bid on 166 auction packages during the champagne reception. The 2016 Fashion Partner, Ted Baker London, presented by South Coast Plaza featured both women and men’s fashions. The runway show brought forth an irreverent sense of humor and unswerving attention to detail through the British brand’s known unconventional approach to fashion.

 

The guest speaker for the event was current CASA volunteer, Rhonda Beylik. Rhonda shared her story of coming to CASA four years ago and being matched with “a beautiful, petite, brown eyed, dimpled 14 year-old girl”. One of Rhonda’s first assignments as a CASA volunteer was to ask this young girl what she would like as a “Starfish Wish” – which are special gift items that guests of the Holiday Luncheon are able to pick off of the Starfish Trees and purchase for the kids that CASA services. Rhonda’s child asked for a camera one year, so that she could make memories, an opportunity to go YMCA Camp Fox in Catalina another year after years of being afraid of telling her peers what she did over the summer – as she never had opportunities to do anything fun or exciting, and this past year told her CASA that she had everything she needed – and didn’t have a wish “Have you ever in your life, ever heard a teenager say those words?”, Rhonda asked the crowd. Rhonda ended her story by sharing the good news that her CASA child is the first person in her family to graduate from high school and also attend college – a true success story with the help of her CASA volunteer.

 

An opportunity drawing donated by Lugano Diamonds featured a 5.49 Pear Shape Black Diamond pendant with .75cts Round Brilliant Collection VS Diamonds and an additional 5cts Black Diamonds set in 18k White Gold and valued at $25,000 was won by Tyler Matthew Olbres.

 

Friends of CASA are committed to raising funds for CASA of Orange County’s mentor-advocate program for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.  Through the annual Holiday Luncheon, the Friends of CASA raise awareness of the CASA program, recruiting volunteers and long-term donors to CASA.  Over the years, this dedicated group of women has been responsible for raising well over 2 million dollars that has gone directly to addressing the needs of some of our community’s most vulnerable children. This year’s Executive Committee of the Holiday Luncheon consisted of Stacie Capobianco, Elizabeth Carpino, Tiffanie Foster, Sandra Gee, Annette Helmich, Shawni Jackson, Lori Jackson, Patty Juarez, Sandi Marino, Colleen Masterson, Stefanie Stamires, Janine Wald, Jaynine Warner, Tracy Wiegand, Kristen Wilson and Marjie Zethraus.

 

About CASA of Orange County

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, we serve annually approximately 750 of the children who move through our court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.                                                               

CASA Holiday Party for Kids

Thank you to all of our wonderful community partners who helped make our Annual Holiday Party for the CASA Kids so successful! We couldn't have done it without YOU! 

ADT Security Services

Allergan

Atrium Irvine, LLC c/o Transwestern

Barnes & Noble

Burnham Benefits Insurance Services

Capital Group

Carrington Charitable Foundation

Children's Village Preschool of Orange,CA

Cindy Stephen

Deutsche Bank

Disney VoluntEARS - Disneyland Resort

Dynamex

Edwards Lifesciences

El Pollo Loco

First American Title

Gale Averill

Gelato Paradiso

Ginger Nelson

Granite Properties

Hein & Associates

Hyundai Capital America

Idea Hall

Indian Princess Tribe of Tustin

DJ Jarom Smith

Jeanne-Nicole Beyers

Kappa Alpha Theta South OC Alumni Chapter

Kilroy Realty Corporation

Laguna Woods Volunteers

Laura Lueke

Linda Siegel & Family

loanDepot

Marbella Montessori

Marilyn Horton

Mariners Church

Mariners Therapy Dogs

McCarthy Cook & Co.

Michael Baker International

National Charity League (Alumni Group)

NCL Irvine

NCL Newport/Mesa

Pacific Life

PADI

River Rock Real Estate Group

Rogue Creative Development LLC

Skyworks

Small Business Growth Alliance

TEKsystems

Tip Top Entertainment

UBS Financial Services

US Black Belt Academy

Wells Fargo Bank

Women in God's Spirit (WINGS)

Yvette Marquez

CASA on the Radio

Listen in to the podcast of The Financial Wake Up Show from this past weekend to hear from our very own Chief Program Officer, Regan Phillips! Thank you to Daniel Choi and the team at KCAA 1050 AM and 106.5 FM for the spotlight!

http://podcasts.kcaastreaming.com/choi/

September 2016 Training Class

CASA of Orange County is proud to show off 14 of our new 15 advocates who were sworn-in last week by Judge Arthur from our September Training Session. We look forward to seeing you all as you begin your journey of advocating and mentoring a child in the foster care system! Congratulations on your achievement!

Festival of Children

Festival of Children Foundation is kicking off their 15th annual celebration at South Coast Plaza and CASA-OC is so excited to be part of it again. Check out the link below to a great article from the LA Times that details some of the exciting things planned this year.

Photograph featured is from the kick-off event that happened earlier this week - from left to right, CASA Case Supervisors, Karyn Quick & Dorit Harrell, Festival of Children Foundation Founder, Sandy Segerstrom-Daniels, and CASA Family Connections Coordinator, Sylvia Novakoff

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-0831-festival-of-children-advance-20160830-story.html

Workplace Solutions

CASA of Orange County would like to extend a public notice of appreciation to the kind folks at Workplace Solutions. This wonderful company was able to assist our non-profit with a long overdue office beautification project. Our office has been updated with new chairs, desks, couches, artwork, and shelving units - and one of the best perks of all of this, was that they were able to take out our old furniture for us, and install all of the new stuff as well. Thank you so much!!!

New Web-Site

CASA of Orange County is very excited to show off our new web-site to all of you!

We have some amazing people to thank who helped make this thing possible: Matt Barnes, Stacy Barnes, Nicole Solis, Belinda Carter, Alex Pavone, Soni Lazor, Joel Stanton, Taylor Stark, Brad Claypool & the rest of the team from Rogue Creative Development.

All photographs on the web-site are courtesy of Classic Kids Photography. Special thanks and appreciation to founder and CEO Julie Floyd, Chief Operations and Marketing Officer Tera Landman, head photographer for the Newport Beach studio location Jenn Sturtevant and Austin Kuhn.

We'd also like to thank friends and family of the CASA staff who served as our models for the beautiful photoshoot.

July 2016 Training Class

Congratulations to our July 2016 Training Class which brought 27 newly sworn-in CASA's to our agency. We are so excited to have all these amazing volunteers joining our team to help children in the foster care system!

Goodwill Partnership

CASA of Orange County - Court Appointed Special Advocates is so excited for our new partnership with Goodwill of Orange County! Do you have stuff around your house that you aren't using anymore and have been meaning to donate? Now is the time! Please drop off your items to the Goodwill location at 1800 North Grand in Santa Ana, and let them know that you were referred by Court Appointed Special Advocates. CASA will receive credit for your donated items that we will be able to give back to our older CASA youth in the form of gift vouchers to go shopping and purchase stuff of their own. Your donated gift items will essentially go twice as far in helping others! 

2nd Annual Shopping Extravaganza

Join CASA of Orange County at the 2nd Annual Shopping Extravaganza taking place at the Outlets of San Clemente!

Tickets to this special event are $35.00 and include exclusive discounts at more than 50 stores, a private catered lunch, live entertainment, VIP wine & craft beer trastings, and over $40,000 in prizes including gift cards to some of the fabulous stores. The best part - $25.00 from your $35.00 ticket price will be donated directly to CASA-OC!

This year's event will be taking place on Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 10am-8pm

Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.shopOSC.com/Tickets

OC Parks Partnership

CASA Cup 2016

Court Appointed Special Advocates netted over $25,000 at the Second Annual CASA Cup fundraiser. Seventeen teams of 10 dressed in lavish costumes boarded decorated Duffy boats and headed into the Newport Peninsula on a scavenger hunt that included stops at Pizza Nova, where teams had to order a special drink to get a point and also to the Balboa Bay Club where teams had to build a sand castle. Trivia questions regarding the non-profit and Newport Peninsula were also part of the fun scavenger hunt.

Following the scavenger hunt, over 160 guests were invited to a barbecue at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, that featured summer staples like hamburgers, hot dogs, and cold beer. CASA-OC CEO, Kathryn Seebold took the stage to announce the winner of the CASA Cup and also the team with Most Spirit, IdeaHall, led by Rebecca and Randy Hall.

About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Orange County is a privately-funded non-profit organization that serves severely abused, neglected and abandoned children through the recruitment, training and continued support of volunteers who advocate and mentor these children, representing their best interest in the courtroom and other settings. Founded in 1985, with major support from the Junior League of Orange County, we serve annually approximately 1,000 of the children who move through our court system as a direct cause of abuse and neglect. We are able to serve these children through the generous support of those who donate to CASA as well as the immeasurable compassion and commitment of our CASA advocates. At CASA of Orange County, our mantra is I am for the Child. Learn more about the ways to give to CASA as a means to help us support and protect the rights of our county’s valued children and to give them the nurturing and stability that they deserve. Please visit www.casaoc.org to learn more.                                                              

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Hispanic Advisory Council Cinco de Mayo Event

Over 75 guests showed up at The Village on 17th Street for the first annual CASA Hispanic Advisory Council Cinco de Mayo Meet & Greet. Guests enjoyed tacos and margaritas while listening to Keynote Speaker, Stephanie Serrano share her story of life in the foster care system and the difference that her CASA made in it. There was a Congressional Recognition Ceremony to Judge Aguirre for his devotion to our community over the years and his support of CASA and the need for more Hispanic/Latino volunteers.

LIFT UP A CHILD'S VOICE. A CHILD'S LIFE.