Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sonoma County, Inc.

Speak up for a foster child!

aka CASA of Sonoma County   |   Kenwood, CA   |  http://www.sonomacasa.org/

Mission

The mission of CASA is to humanize the complicated, unfamiliar, and frightening legal and child welfare systems for the child victim by providing a trained volunteer to be a consistent support person, advocate and lifelong connection. Each year, CASA recruits, screens, orient, and provides dozens of hours of training for 160 - 180 adults to serve as mentors/advocates for 180 - 220 children in the juvenile court system.

Ruling year info

1998

Executive Director

Millie Gilson

Main address

P.O. Box 1418

Kenwood, CA 95452 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

68-0404770

NTEE code info

Child Abuse, Prevention of (I72)

Children's and Youth Services (P30)

Administration of Justice, Courts (Court Administration, Court Reform, Alternatives to Litigation and Sentencing) (I50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Child Welfare Services division of the Sonoma County Health and Human Services Agency is tasked with caring for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Hearings are held and the Juvenile Court judge is tasked with making life altering decisions about this child. Abused and neglected children need more help than the foster care system can provide as they are at tremendous risk for lasting emotional trauma, homelessness which is only exacerbated when they are thrust into a complex, confusing, and often isolating court process.This is the time that the Juvenile Court refers children directly to our CASA Program. Without consistent support from volunteer mentor advocates to support judges and other child welfare-related professionals who have large caseloads, abused and neglected children become lost in the juvenile court system resulting in a lack of adequate representation.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

CASA of Sonoma County

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sonoma County (CASA) is a 501 (c) (3) charitable community-based organization committed to serving abused and neglected children in Sonoma County who come before the Juvenile Court for protection. The US Department of Justice has supported the CASA advocacy model since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile.

CASA is unique in our services and in our relationship with the courts. When the Juvenile Court judge assumes jurisdiction over a child's life (and future), 20 professionals become involved, including an average of 4-6 social workers, law enforcement, 2-3 private attorneys, and attorneys from the County Counsel and the Public Defender's Office. Each person represents a particular interest, but none of these professionals' mandates focus solely on the overall best interests of the child - except for the CASA Volunteer Advocate.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Children and youth

This project over the years has allowed CASA to coach youth away from behaviors such as truancy, substance abuse, aggression, and anti-social peers/gangs.

Population(s) Served
At-risk youth
Children and youth

Where we work

Accreditations

National CASA 2021

Affiliations & memberships

National CASA 2002

CA CASA Association 1996

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Each year, CASA recruits, screens, trains and orients 160-180 adults to serve as advocates for 180-220 children in the juvenile court system. CASA carefully matches each foster youth with an appropriate advocate who will provide long term and consistent support. The advocates represent the child in the Juvenile Court, report recommendations and findings and support the case as it moves through the court system.

These are our current goals and objectives:
1. To improve the lives of vulnerable foster children.
- Recruit, train and match 10-20 volunteer child advocates to 10-20 children every quarter.
- Ensure that 100% of advocates provide 10 to 12 hours a month of advocacy and mentorship.
- Facilitate access to extra-curricular activities for 100% of children served.
- Ensure an increase in the child’s self-esteem in 70-75% of cases.
- Ensure a decrease in the destructive behaviors upon initial assessment for 75% of children served.

2. To prevent homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, mental and physical health problems.
- Facilitate and advocate for appropriate placement for 85% – 100% of children served to decrease the chances of homelessness.
- 75% of the volunteers will contribute to the successful emancipation of teen youth by providing the guidance and direction needed to make career and higher education decisions.
- 100% of the volunteers contribute to the child’s educational plan.

CASA volunteers will ensure the children achieve successful futures by adequate placements, improved physical and mental health, and positive education outcomes through written court reports to judges with recommendations regarding the above mentioned. They will monitor case plans and court orders, help the children understand the court proceedings, seek cooperative solutions among individuals and organizations involved in the children’s lives. Independent research has demonstrated that children with a CASA volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to re-enter care.

Judges have often expressed the need for unbiased and crucial information in their overwhelming caseloads, and look to CASA to provide that information. The objective opinion of a CASA volunteer, who has no stake in the case except what is best for the child, is an invaluable aid to the court. We are there because we care. Serving one child at a time.

CASA volunteers are matched to children between the ages of 0 – 21, and provide approximately 10-12 hours of service per month on casework offering long term, consistent support. After reviewing the case information and court reports, the volunteer consults with clinical and program staff to develop a case plan. Prior to each court hearing, the volunteer prepares a court report containing his/her evaluations and recommendations for the child. The Juvenile Court judge reads and considers the CASA report, in addition to the social worker's report, prior to making his decision. Volunteers attend all Juvenile Court hearings that affect the rights and welfare of the child. Because of the growing number of cases filed in Juvenile Court and dwindling resources to adequately monitor the cases, judges find the CASA volunteers to be positive complements to providing the information necessary to make better-informed decisions.

CASA volunteers participate in a 32-36 hour classroom and field observation training, with an additional 10-12 hours of continuing education required each year. The initial training course is divided into six sessions over two weeks. Training topics include: an overview of the Juvenile Court; child welfare and probation systems; child abuse and child development; bonding and separation issues; cultural diversity; and policy and procedures, including mandated child abuse reporting and confidentiality guidelines. The training faculty is made up of skilled and experienced professionals including judges, commissioners, public agency department heads, and experts in child abuse issues. The training program is based on the National CASA Association curriculum, with several other elements added by CASA of Sonoma County including advocate safety, the effects on children of domestic violence, adolescent development, and the outlook on the Sonoma County foster care system.

Abused and neglected children need more help than the foster care system can provide, and that is why in 1977, a Seattle Superior Court Judge created and implemented the first Court Appointed Special Advocate - CASA Program in the country so that children’s voices and needs would be fully represented in his courtroom. He developed the concept of recruiting and training community volunteers to represent the best interests of children in court proceedings. Today, the CASA movement is 77,000 volunteers strong nationally. Yet, many children still do not have the hope that a CASA volunteer can offer. Without the consistent support from volunteer child advocates, abused and neglected children become lost in the Juvenile Court System.

The purpose of the CASA program is to ensure that abused and neglected children receive high-quality, sensitive, effective, and timely representation in court hearings to determine their guardianship. The US Department of Justice has supported the CASA advocacy model since 1985 through its Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Founded in 1997, CASA of Sonoma County has been the “Child’s Voice in Court” and has served over 1,300 Sonoma County abused and neglected children over the years. CASA is one of 44 similar programs throughout California. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Arnold Rosenfield founded the CASA program out of concern for the many children languishing in the foster care system, often victims of poorly documented or ill-conceived decisions. Judges have often expressed the need for unbiased and crucial information in their overwhelming caseloads, and look to CASA to provide that information. The objective opinion of a CASA volunteer, who has no stake in the case except what is best for the child, is an invaluable aid to the court. We are there because we care. Serving one child at a time.

CASA takes great pride in having made a meaningful place for itself in the Sonoma County Juvenile Court and Child Welfare System, as well as, to collaborate with other local organizations such as the Foster Youth Coalition, Teen Services, VOICES, Teen Shelter programs (TLC, THPP, SAY) and local colleges and trade schools. These collaborating agencies need the support of the CASA Program and our CASA volunteers as we accomplish more for foster youth when we are working together. Because of our collaborative mission and philosophy, our caseloads continuously grow and our program is been called upon to serve more youth and therefore to recruit more volunteers. We have great hope in seeing our youth have the opportunity to grow into self-sufficient and successful adults. The funding we receive from the foundation gives us the opportunity to increase staff and staff time, grow the outreach of our program while maintaining the quality of our services.

Since our inception in 1997, we have server over 1,400 children through the dedication of over 1,000 volunteers. CASA is prepared and equiped to advocate for about 220 children annually and has always around 65 children on a waitlist waiting to be assigned a CASA volunteer.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Abused and neglected children and youth ages 0 - 21 years old

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Case management notes,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Serving more children

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    This answer is confidential due to the population we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    Confidentiality laws only allows us to keep information within the agency,

Financials

Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sonoma County, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Court Appointed Special Advocates of Sonoma County, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 11/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mary Ann Wakefield

Jennifer Smith

Redwood Credit Union

Roni Brown

Summit State Bank

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/15/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

 

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data