Answer: Email sent to the network March of 2009:
I wanted to throw in some direction about the Mentoring time off for state employees.
Yes, absolutely. Time spent with a CASA child qualifies for Mentoring Leave in accordance with the employers’ requirements.
A More “Complete” Answer
Drilling down to find the answer of “really, can one take the time,” is a long road to the simple answer.
1) The State grants up to 40 hours of leave per year on a matching basis to employees who mentor at-risk youth (grades K-12). To qualify, the mentoring activities must be organized through a bona fide mentoring organization.
a. “At-risk youth” means an individual under 21 years of age whose environment increases their chance of academic failure, alcohol and other drug use, involvement in the criminal justice system, or teen pregnancy. [Welf. & Inst. Code 2104(b)] – Clearly CASA children are at risk youth.
b. “Mentoring” means a relationship over a period of time in which caring and concerned adults and older youth provide support, guidance, and help to younger at-risk persons as they go through life. [Welf. & Inst. Code 2104(b)] – Clearly CASAs mentor youth.
c. So, what is a bona fide mentoring organization? – CASAs qualify as they meet the Quality Assurance Standards promulgated several years ago.
The answer to this question begins at the Union bargaining agreement that exists between the employee and the State. For fun you can look here: http://www.dpa.ca.gov/bargaining/contracts/index.htm
Though, by and large each (and perhaps every) bargaining agreement suggests that in order to qualify for the mentoring leave, the mentoring must be done through an organization that meets the “Quality Assurance Standards established by the California Mentoring Initiative Office, Department of Alcohol & Drug Programs.” Meeting these standards seems to qualify a program as a “bona fide” program.
Generally, the standards (adopted in 1997, and originally found in the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs Publication Number 99-1121) are summarized as follows:
a) A statement of purpose and a long-range plan.
b) A recruitment plan for both mentors and mentees.
c) An orientation for mentors and mentees.
d) Eligibility screening for mentors and mentees.
e) A readiness and training curriculum for all mentors and mentees.
f) A strategy that matches the provider program’s purpose.
g) A monitoring program that includes ongoing assessment.
h) A support, recognition, and retention component, including ongoing peer support, training, and development.
i) Closure steps that include confidential exit interviews.
j) An evaluation process based on an outcome analysis of the mentor program, program criteria, and statement of purpose.
(Welf. & Inst. Code 2106)
Therefore, the ability to take the mentoring leave depends on the bargaining agreement. However, an employee takes the time subject to the other requirements of the employer. For example, it seems from reading these agreements that the leave requires an equal “match” of personal time, i.e. take an hour of personal time, and then you qualify to take an hour of mentoring leave. Also, time cannot be used for travel to and from, etc. etc. Volunteers simply need to coordinate and confirm this with their employer.
However, as long as your CASA program subscribes to these standards (and really all California CASAs do) then it is a bona fide mentoring organization. Of course volunteers “mentor” “at-risk youth,” and therefore, I think anyone would be hard pressed to claim CASA volunteers could not use time spent with their CASA child as qualifying “Mentoring Leave” for state employment.
Hope this helps,
& Legal Director
California CASA Association