CASA of Orange County received $20,000 to recruit, screen and train 75 new Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) that assist foster youth as they transition into adulthood.

Description of how the funds will be used:
The funds will be used to recruit, screen and train 115 new CASAs through CASAs advocate training program.

Description of Project/Program, what makes it compelling, and the specific needs it will address:
Over 40% of foster youth who are referred for CASA-OC’s services are between the ages of 16-21–a pivotal age, where youth are preparing to transition to adulthood. Many have spent their entire lives in the overburdened dependency system, and upon aging-out, are often unprepared with no one to guide them into adulthood. Studies show that nearly 40% of unsupported foster youth will end up on public assistance; nearly 45% will be homeless by the age of 21; approximately 50% will be unemployed, and sadly, 30% of the young men will become imprisoned. CASA-OC has an innovative solution. We begin intensive life-skills training when foster youth reach the age of 16. CASA volunteers are trained to provide one-on-one mentoring to help their at-risk youth successfully complete high school and learn independent living skills to increase self-sufficiency.

Describe the Organization or Project as it pertains to the following Impact Giving Grant Standards-
High Impact & Life Transforming
Unsupported foster youth end up getting lost in a broken system–bouncing between homes and schools. Without guidance and support, 43% of these youth will never receive a high school diploma and less than 3% will graduate college. Without a high school diploma, it’s hard to find a job—47% of former foster youth are unemployed and 71% report salaries of
less than $25,000 annually. In contrast, youth with CASAs have a more than 90% chance of graduating high school. CASAs teach these youth self-sufficiency, ensuring a smooth transition to adulthood. The common thread found in CASA work, as they help their youth secure safe and affordable housing, obtain education/training, and learn financial management, is the goal of becoming self-sufficient.

Education
One of CASA’s core objectives is education. Transitioning foster teens get support for education, including access to college and trade school readiness programs. They are educated about adult life skills regarding finances, housing, employment, and more. CASAs receive advanced training and education in working with foster teens transitioning to adulthood. CASA-OC provides 30-hours of training to new CASA recruits; additionally, CASAs are required to refresh their skills with continued education and training throughout the year.

Sustainability
For over three decades CASA-OC has deployed an army of unpaid, highly-trained, creative, problem-solving volunteers to leverage critical community-resources. Most youth they serve have fallen through the cracks of a broken system. CASA-OC’s TAY program brings together the teen’s placement staff, foster parents, social workers, educators, counselors, attorneys and judges to best support these youth, and ensures they are prepared for successful independence.

Community Building
CASA-OC’s TAY Program prepares Orange County’s transitioning teens for success in adulthood, based on the foundation of our powerful existing services. In response to the unique challenges that older foster youth face, our program ensures that these youths transition to adulthood smoothly, reducing their likelihood of living in poverty, or ending up homeless and dependent. By deploying this army of unpaid high-trained volunteers, CASA-OC saves Orange County $1.7 million annually – the value of service our volunteers provide to Social Services and Juvenile Dependency Court system.

Innovative
CASA-OC’s TAY Program is innovative in preparing Orange County’s transitioning teens for success in adulthood. In response to unique challenges that older foster youth face, our program ensures that the transition to adulthood goes smoothly, reducing their likelihood of living in poverty, or ending up homeless. CASA has a proven record of success with this population.

Measurable
CASA-OC has three methods for evaluating the success of our programs, including information into our program database, Optima, and two annual surveys–one targeted toward our volunteer advocates and another toward the children we serve. Data from these evaluations is reviewed by management staff on a semi-annual basis to identify successes, determine challenges and changes to our program increasing rates of success on an individual and system-wide basis.

Organization’s Mission Statement:
CASA provides a powerful voice for youth in the child welfare system through a unique one-on-one relationship with trained and supervised court appointed volunteer advocates.

Link to the website: www.casaoc.org