We’re excited to announce that in August 2017, Calaveras County became the 51st county in the state to establish a CASA program. Over the last year, volunteers, representatives from community agencies, and the Calaveras County Superior Court partnered to form the new Calaveras County CASA program. With an estimated 150 children in dependency each year and the numbers growing steadily due to the prevalence of substance abuse in the rural county of 45,000, a CASA program was critically needed.
“The time is right to have a CASA program here. Many of the children who have faced abuse and neglect need that one person who will stick by them and help them navigate through a difficult, hard time,” shared Ileana Grycel, foster parent and volunteer.
The many steps to become a CASA program included obtaining a membership with the National CASA Association as well as having the endorsement from the California CASA Association. Karen Finan, program director for California CASA, stated, “We are so pleased that Calaveras County can better serve the children in the foster care system, and we at California CASA will provide ongoing support to the program as it grows, and as they recruit more CASA volunteers to serve more children.”
CASA of Calaveras received some initial funding from the Judicial Council of California, which helps new programs get on their feet. In addition, the program was just awarded a grant from First 5 Calaveras, which will help the program manage a portion of the case load for children who have faced abuse and are newborn to five years. Because of the vulnerability of this age group, CASAs who work with infants and small children will be specially trained to understand early developmental stages and help to overcome and prevent further trauma.
The program has complimentary office space in the Calaveras County Court House in San Andreas, and is operating as a non-profit program under Nexus Youth and Family Services in Jackson, in Amador County. Nexus oversees the Amador CASA program as well. “Having a tandem program in their adjacent county will bolster the CASA of Calaveras program and ensure its success,” stated Lori Halvorson, Amador CASA Director at Nexus. CASA of Calaveras Program Manager Fara Roberts staffs the office in San Andreas, and is excited by the progress they’ve already made. “We already have two CASA volunteers nearly ready to be sworn in,” Fara said, “and plan to do another CASA training in the fall.”
If you have friends and family in the Sierra foothills looking to improve children’s lives, encourage them to be among the first CASAs in Calaveras. They don’t have a website yet but they do have an office phone line for volunteer inquiries: 209-754-9816.