Friday, May 12th


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Good morning and welcome to another edition of living veteran San Diego. A public service presentation of the and a count San Diego radio stations and variably. Voices for children recruits trains and supervises the court appointed volunteers or Cox's. Who advocate for the rights and well being of children in the Foster care system here in San Diego County. Joining us this morning is voices for children president and CEO Sharon Lawrence in casa volunteer Meredith Cody welcome Sharon what Meredith. And you know think some scary. Sharon's been awhile since we've seen each other you're on the show several years ago yes I wet and I thoroughly enjoyed being here with you. Well it's great to have you back in Meredith pleasure meeting you and having you on the show. That would start a little background information some history on voices for children. Chorus of voices for children he's 37 years old we were founded back in 1980. My alarm student named Kathryn ash and it retired social worker named Elizabeth speak and they start the children in the Foster care system. Needed more time and attention in the professionals could give them. So they've added our organization and then it was originally and they were hoping judges by summarizing court files of children and parks to care. And then in 1983 they added the concept program and and and what does cost a stand for so in a court appointed special advocate. It's a very special kind of volunteer. That is trained by voices for children. To really advocate on behalf of Foster children and to provide judges making really critical decisions about these children's lives. Where they go to school if they get to go back home to mom and dad know whether their release for adoption. And they these volunteers provide important information to these judges making those critical decisions so what is the miss in the end it voices for children. So I mentioned Gary is it we would advocate for foxy news and make sure that their lives have battered. And you just mean I know of Foster care is all about but specifically it. It is a bureaucracy. Here in San Diego why can every other county in the United States. That is designed to have social workers and attorneys and judges take care of children when their biological families cannot. And all of the children that we work with here in San Diego have voices for children. Our children in Foster care who Obama moved from their families where either abuse or neglect or even abandonment so you're dealing with. At risk youth always to a Manhattan institute had some trauma. Whether it's physical abuse sexual abuse emotional abuse or even neglect. And so you have then abused or neglected develop differently than children who haven't so our volunteers especially trained to be able to interact with. And then as I said earlier to provide information to detached but what are the most important things that are custom volunteers do here for asked. Is they get to know these children and families are very very well so they maintained their children out to the beach for the very first time you most about children have never seen in the ocean. Some of them have never had the opportunity to go in a restaurant and order from and you. Sometimes our costs and I'm twos and the only ones that they can really play with because oftentimes these children. Have been taking care they younger Brothers and sisters and living in a pretty chaotic environment so they've grown up. Awfully fast. Well what's the difference then between casa volunteer and and social worker so social workers and very specialized professional. Who I am are responsible for taking care of an entire family. So it's a child is removed from a biological family in the parents are brought into Foster care and to the juvenile court system. The social worker has to provide those parents with what ever services and treatment they need in order to be good parents again. So social workers may have to provide drug treatment for addiction problems. They may have to and get them parenting classes because it never abandoned parent and don't have a good role model. Before they come into the system. They may have to get them Stanley therapy and counseling in some situations parents are am involved in domestic violence and they have to be treated for that. So social workers still at the entire damn it cuts volunteers in contrast are responsible for one or two children may be the sibling group. And that Stanley this man brought to Foster care and they are volunteers they're not paid to be in these children's lives are choosing to be there. And that mission is to advocate for the best interest of the children. Now so those cases they will be advocating for the parents because in the cost is mind and in their opinion. The best for the children are back with their parents but in general they are focused only on the children as a post a social worker. Who has many children and many families to take care of art classes generally work with one and two families. OK and you're located where where San Diego so our course of volunteers appear in each one of the courthouse has sent holds hearings and by having children. And so there are six courtrooms and five court houses so there's a courtroom and they're stuck to their Children's Hospital in training may sat. One in east county one in the south bay and one downtown. But not this is our antennae Nissan and so our volunteers are trained in our administrative office of flight and then deployed to the. From courthouses where they work on behalf of children and if I'm not mistaken since the last time you on the show you have expanded you're now in Riverside County we are in Riverside counties so in the fall of 2014. The Riverside superior court asked voices for children to come up and start a new program there the player program has had some difficulty. And so they wanted to ask to come out. Now bush is two children is the largest program in California and in the western United States improperly top third nationwide. Faced a number of children served member of staff member about frontiers and the am success of. Our program. And you're the only one. Only organization or agency of this type in San Diego county and chief. Correct so in California and there's a stigmata says you can only have one casa program per county. And so voices for children is a cost a program for San Diego and Riverside so when the only organization that is allowed to train these volunteers to become advocates for kids and we do I am make sure that every Kasai has a paid professional staff member to help them. Navigate the system to problem solve to. Help them with building relationships so every Cossack has a paid professional staff member to help them but we're the only organization. Given the right to abdicate in court using custom volunteers since 98 and and what's the age group of of the kids that you work with the so it pushed the children we weren't quick newborns all the way up to age 21 and so children can stint up in Foster care and tell. The age of 21 and that's a new law that changed since you and I have been together Garry used to be that they went all in jab at the age of eighteen but now if they are working and going to school a certain number of hours they can stay until the age of 21 which gives us a little bit more time to prepare them for adults had an. And are all all the kids. Referred to you from the courts. So bush just took Cho has an agreement with the juvenile court that allows us to be do you embrace fire and every fox to try out here in San Diego County. And so our staff triage and shows children to determine what twins need casa volunteers. And in the course of the year there's about 4900. Children in San Diego County that will be a part of the Foster care system. I'm not attorneys is social workers and judges helping them and that the 4900. We will provide advocacy for about 3050. Chilled. Using 16100 volunteers at 16100. Casa volunteer we you wiwa has 16100 volunteers over the course of the year scary and we always need more. Because we have 300 children currently on a waiting list have been identified as urgently needing it costs have right now. And in particular we have a need for bilingual Spanish speaking customers and for men. Many and a little boys and our Foster care system do not have good two male role models and so we are always looking for men. For bilingual Spanish speakers as well as anybody involved and wants to help the child we need volunteers. Can wanna talk and in just a little bit about. What is required for volunteer with the processes to become a casa volunteer I want to talk Meredith too because Meredith you are Sweden at casa volunteer. Can we get to get a little bit more in depth as to what. Casa volunteer does. Cher show us a volunteer award goes to 35 hours of training. Look I mean all of that how abused neglected children develop differently than children who haven't been abuse. They'll learn about dependency Omar what judges can and can't do. They'll learn about the social workers responsibilities. And policies and procedures. And also to things about what human biological families so that we can make sure we're doing everything we can to to support them and in the closer to 35 hours of training our cost of bonds is also learn how to write a court report and how to stand up in court and speak to the jags so 'cause volunteers to lots of different things after they graduate. There actually declared a court officer by the juvenile court jag so they have a court order that gives him some far reaching responsibilities. And Costas twelve. When he first assigned to a case leads the social workers file and then go meet with the social worker in meet with the child's attorney. Possibly be the attorney filed and then of course we have a court file but they'll review is well they will. Talked to the children and get to know them. They will meet the biological parents in the Foster parenting get to know them. Russia parents have a wealth of information for our assets because supposed to parents are actually taking care of these children 24/7. They will go to the school with the children I am aren't ads and meet with the teachers sometimes and they will observe them in the classroom and maybe volunteer. As a them parent and many of our Casas told educational rights for their children which means that if their parents are Foster parents cannot hold those rights. For whatever reason in the Costas will be given that a court order allowing them. To interact with school officials and Arab seek. Educational services it's a child needs special assistants. So after getting to know ME one and renewing his confidential records and he talked to the doctors involved in these children's lives is whilst there since they will write a court of ports and every six months of judge holds a hearing involving our Foster children. To see how they're doing and whether their parents are making progress on their case plan whether they're parents can get their children back safely and so. Our costs as well write a court report. Talking about the needs of the children have the children and doing and what their recommendations are and then they will attend the court here hearing to answer any questions such as taxes they are the one constant adult and a child's life during a pretty scary time. And that's because unfortunately sometimes Foster parents change sometimes attorneys can reassign sometimes social workers get promoted so as a child list for the Foster care system. They often times have a lot of people change in in their lives and our costs as we hope. We'll be that person there for them while they're going as I said that a pretty awful time in their lives have separated offense but their Brothers and sisters are not living at home. They don't have their favorite stuffed animal or maybe their dock with them. And it can be very upsetting to a child so the cost is set to support the child and help them understand what's going on. That sounds like the casa volunteers is. Not just an advocate. But the most like guardian there wonderful people who have big hearts for children and do a lot to help these kids to do. A difficult time. I'm Meredith you are cast a volunteer I am how many years you've been doing. Ivan Acosta for four years and I have had the opportunity to work with three different families and then invited into their lives and homes which I am grateful for. And I've kind of had. The benefit of being able to experience. Three children in very different situations. My had a case may first case child and it worked left. Was in relative placements and they were with the family member in and he was a toddler when he came into care. Second Stanley that I worked with they were in a license Foster home and she was brought in to care at earth. And now the third case that I've got is young man getting ready to transition into adulthood and he has been living in a group problems so. Three very different. Circumstances and situations that something where. As tosses were really able to add value and support to those families and children. And all those different circumstances. So you had just one. One child that you've worked with each time yes that's correct. I've been assigned to one child but all of those children have had. Biological siblings. And so even though I wasn't there costs. Part of our role as the costs is to help navigate some of those family dynamics and relationships. And help those cameras are in Foster care and maintain some of those family connections offense is safe healthy thing for the child to deal. As we've been I was only assigned to one child that you feel like I was assigned to a family in each of those situations. And in what was it that you have you done this before. I have night infection and I were talking about this earlier my background is in something completely unrelated but I do you have kids of my own. And as my kid as an art school and I was you know I noticed that there was a lot of parents showing up to volunteer and and there they had all these resources and support about around them to help support them. And it really started to think about all of the kids in our communities it to stop how about one adult to shell out for them. Whether it's up at parent teacher conference whether it's to make sure that they have the doctors appointments they need and just let them know that their values and their cared about by someone. And I saw some information about voices for children and thought I'd be a great way to get back. To the community as far as to children who don't have that adults and stand up for them and what's been like for you in these years doing this. Well I have to say that it's. Aside from raising my own kids it's probably been the most rewarding thing I've ever done. And I can tell you that I've gotten way more out of it and I'm sure I'd get into the Canas and their families. It's incredibly humbling. For somebody like myself who had worked in social services or knew anything about Foster care rather than preferably. I've learned so much about. Just how the system works and the process and the resources. And all of the folks that are working together to try to help support kids who really need it. And learned tons about substance abuse and domestic violence and help people find themselves in the situations and I think for a lot of us are. Opinions about Foster care and children in Foster care and families is framed by what least you know the snippets we see on TV year what we see in the media. And really as with all things it's much more complicated. For the most part all of the families that have worked with these are folks that love their children. You know need help and support. And really are trying to do the best they can given the circumstances that they've been handed. And and for each of the three cases that you've had how long did you work with with each of them. And the first two cases were about eighteen months which kind of follows that the court timing so that seems to be pretty typical. The second case I was able to successfully seat a case through an adoption. Which was just fantastic to be able to experience that after working with the family in helping to support them. Time to actually be there when the judge. Signed the adoption for the up gambling. The case that I'm working on now I've only been with him for years he spent he's transitioning and into that extended Foster care and and he's gonna you know be in adult working towards independence. So it kind of depends on the case what the situation is. We asked folks said commit to Betty T months but it can be longer. I don't know that it shorter record often just based on how slowly the process the process being court in the system and all of the legalities and these things at times. So after doing it curve for several years now somebody listening this morning might be thinking of doing some something like this would you recommend. A lit up when I talk to folks about it the year. I think there's a lot of folks out there that feel that Tug and really want to help support kids and an advocate for children and our community. I think sometimes they. Think wall I don't have any experience of then I don't know how to do that and so they might feel intimidated by the way of the responsibility of the court officer and I'm gonna be responsible for going to court and speaking up for this child but the reality is that as long as you have a willingness to serve and you approach it. With an attitude of wind to be of service it really ultimately at the end of the day B unit cost is about relationship building whether it's with a child whether it's with the family. You know the social workers the other professionals on the case and so long as you're willing to put in the effort and do the relationship p.s. And you can be very successful and effective and really help impact a child's life. And as you say very rewarding Greta absolutely. Apps and I'm really fortunate that the Petit families where the cases have closed that and they're not and in the Foster care system anymore I still have relationships with those families they still invite me to participate. I'm in their family activities and events in time and in those two those are both small and I sort of work with them so it's been fun to watch them. Navigate the terrible twos and against a hopeless a little less fun again I ask you about that if there's any follow up there and you know that it. For some family is way if they close the case successfully in their able to adopt the child the child goes into some sort of guardianship with the family. You know the Foster care processor is very traumatic and so something emily's. As much as they appreciate their costs and they really like having that person and that support they're ready to put that chapter behind so that does happen. And I think anybody that's gonna be a constant needs to be prepared for the fact that. You know the situations are different the people involved are different the family dynamics are different. And so it's just really gonna depend on what that families willing to kind of do going forward but. Even for those families that aren't looking to maintain a super close tight relationship. I think there's an element of gratitude and respect there that that continues for so Sharon and as far as a casa volunteer you mentioned some of the training that's involved that's what else is required of a person who wants to become casa volunteer. So in order to be at casa volunteer you have to be 21 no oldest and that's a requirement of the states. And you have to have a big hearted and wanna help children in different ways. I am and their is a whole process to go through so we actually have what's called an information session we're having these constantly. So that potential volunteers can come and meet someone like Meredith who is a cost of balance here and talked amendment and hear from my staff about. What the processes lied but in general. I yet to be 21 in mind how the child. With respect to this information sessions anyone can go to our website which is speak app narron got bored and find out when those next information sessions are. We didn't have an application processed so potential volunteers. Do complete an application. And then they have an inning view with one of our staff members and that's really where we can explain more about what's the processes like. I am an of course I have that information session background where they learn about why it is right to be a cop sat. And then once you are accepted into the training program. In this tune about you to process so we're constantly looking at a potential volunteers to make sure that this is the right fit for them and for acts. And then after they complete the training is they mention. Dearly and they are sworn in as a court officer. And become across a volunteer with which is the children and how how effective has has this program been for you what kind of results you see. So are there Vincent several nationwide study used to have left active children with process for us as children without. And what they find is those children in Foster care who have a good fortune to have a cost. Are are more likely to get to adopt. Are less likely to bounce back and forth between their biological family in the Foster care system. And in the process can keep that case open and make recommendations to keep the case open. For as long as necessary so the family can successfully reunified that's what's going to happen. Generally children with Casas to better in school. Because it got someone who was Adam they're accountable to someone who's watching their education and sometimes participating school. I am and then we also have found that children with process score higher when their evaluated and self protective factors such a self esteem. So Kostis can help in in my innovative ways he's children. And I think the most important thing is that consistency in knowing that they can trust somebody to be there when they say they're going to be there. I don't think it cost has get to do is doing narrative most of our passes our scientists sibling group Meredith got just one child at a time. But some of our cost says make sure that the children get to see their Brothers and sisters as Meredith did. I and her cases and that's very important because oftentimes children are put in different Foster homes and different group homes or institutions. And so they don't get to see their Brothers and sisters so Carson's friends together. We also have an intensive voices for children only of holiday parity is pumpkin decorating contest are written days. For the teenagers who sometimes have make camp. And days and so well polished trying to bring our Casas and children together and different ways so that they can enjoy when and Gary. I just wanted to add something to a chance and about measuring success. And I think. For people that become Costas or interest in becoming Costas I mean these are folks uttered viewers they're signing up to become cost isn't going to the training process because they wanna make a difference and they wanna help. And I think what can be a challenge. Is to remind ourselves that how we define success is gonna be different for every child and every family and is statistically those things I I've seen on TVQ with the children I've worked with. But in some cases the support and the abacus C that we provide might show up in ways that we weren't expecting. So we might you know started with a family and think we're gonna see just successfully through to an adoption. And along the way things might happen and the case might go on a different direction and the way we end up adding value is in a completely different way than we originally thought. So one thing I would say for anyone is thinking about becoming a Kostis is just keep your mind open to the fact that. Every child has to walk their own path and we're here to support them but that path might change along the way and it's really important that we manage our expectations of success. Without family because it could change and every case is different absolutely damaged if absolutely. Have a cramming Gary for a volunteers that they have about ten to fifteen hours a month to get to their work as a casa volunteer. So they can be data at various times during the day and some people will do that you know during a break at work when I have a quick conversation with the social worker. And then we skipped the hearings a court schedule C hearings six months in advance so Cox says do you have noticed before they damn right there court reporting going to court. But Cust does can still travel all they most of them a full time employees who they do have busy lives I don't want you think you have to devote your entire life to Passat. And you can be a regular person and have a regular right and still help kids. So but it takes about ten hours or so ten to fifteen a month to help the child but it's something you've you've you've really need to be dedicated to. You need to be committed to because the last thing we wanna do is a sign. At casa volunteer to a child a children's case. And then hand back pass a disappointment and so you do have to be present as you say you well when you see the kids. Now this month for just met at a time that this month. Is national Foster care month and yet an event coming up later this nostalgic. We do so we have what's called when women and shoes coming up on May twentieth it's in Del Mar and historic estates. So people interested in joining us for wind tasty in a fashion show they can go to our website which is speak up now dot org. And learn more about way to buy tickets will have another presentation coming out on May tenth which is Wednesday. And that is in the even mean in a Mondale. And there we have a panel of current and former Foster youth. That it gonna talk about their lives in Foster care and what their concept has stand for them. And again you can find more information about that a bit and you can make an RA CP on our website as well. In that event that's. Real word and that that that happens periodically throughout the year doesn't. If jazz so our kids well I am periodically she said every few months. I'd be a different public venues where they can talk about the importance of casa volunteers. And how their costs are particularly impacted their life and really what's it like to grow up in Foster care. Certainly merit it has a little bit and an understanding because she has been through the walk with her children. And I having been a push to children for a long time have seen what has happened to children. But we don't understand it because we don't live it every day and so that's why this panel frosting youth. Skin and the help educate the general public about what fox who cares how about and why it's important to help and so. And and year one women in Houston and Helen how much is it to us to attend this so is the ticket price is 250 dollars and that goes to helping to support the pass a program. In order to recruit train and support a volunteer like Meredith it costs us 2500 dollars a year to provide that training and support. And so white women and shoes proceeds will go to helping us recruit more Kostis in his name mentioned earlier we have about 300 children waiting for so. So we need everybody supports him make that happen. And you are nonprofit and again as you mentioned it cost quite a bit too to train. You casa volunteers where else do you get your funding outside inside your fundraising events that you hold for a year. So it's me Gary bush just to children last year I only got 4% of its funding from the government. Oftentimes people say to me were you seem to be doing choirs and get them at work why does the government support you know. I don't really have a good answer for that and then and has not NF resource is right now for these Foster kids and the government is strapped and I am and so. We get most of my money from individuals people who do. Make a ten dollar donation of 25 dollar donation north 1000 dollars I am and they help support the program by giving financially. Our special events raise money to help us and we also make applications to foundation use. I am and civic groups have Philanthropic organizations like kiwanis and rotary have often supported that's. But it really is to individuals and community to have stepped forward to help us. And have somebody wants to make a donation in and help you with your mission they can do that at your website. Absolutely there is a button that says donate now and it will take you to secure page where you can make a credit card donation or if you wanna send a check we have an address on the website as well. And if anybody has more questions about where that Manning goes and how we used to Manny. There's also a phone number that they can cause we want answered any of questions and. In need of volunteers casa volunteers so what is the next step if somebody listening this morning wants to. Get involved. So I would encourage new president that has a heart and wants to help children in this way to go to our website as speak up now that pork. Look an information session and time that all work for you so we've listed the next three months of information sessions so that you can see what what what year. Calendar and RS BP fed information session called voices for children if you have warned. Questions and certainly fill out the application which is also on the website and our staff will be in touch immediately. What do you so that we can make sure that we get you into the training met will most accommodate your schedule. We had training for casa volunteers going and I and every month. I of the year except December. And we have morning evening and Saturday training so people can pick the schedule that best works. For their life many opportunities to many happy together those training sessions Minneapolis in the knees and as we've said several times. I am do you following tears are doing incredible work out we're so fortunate to have almost 16100 of them like Meredith. I bet every child who needs tests deserves to. Have someone in their life like Meredith and our goal is to make sure we serve every child who needs and you have what you do you sit 300 kids on the waiting list ran it three new kids on the waiting list so we've got far to go out and order to make sure that we're taking care of those kids Meredith Kenny final words until I got to the scene this morning no I just would say that if it's something that you're considering even just a little bit definitely go to information session gets more information get any outstanding questions or concerns you have answered. End it like I said it's the best one of the best things I've ever done and hopefully others and our community will both join us some stuff up out once again your website. Is speak up now on that fourth and I am would also encourage anyone who's interested to. To go to the website and mine more about our Foster care assists and these are all of our children and their waiting for you. And are you on social media we are so we have a FaceBook page and we also have a Twitter account so. If you go to our website you also see where you can sign up about that FaceBook page and I Twitter account. Great Sharon pleasure of seeing you again have to face and see scary thing Sheridan you. A pleasure meeting you handgun there as well and thanks to both of you for all you do voices for children it's definitely much needed. Service and that's greatly appreciated. Thank you think he sometimes. That includes another addition of living better and San Diego the opinions expressed on living veteran San Diego do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the staff and management of the and it counts San Diego radio stations. Episodes of living veteran San Diego are available on the station's website. Join me next week when my guest will be from the US so San Diego until that I currently have a great week.