The Giving Marin Community Partnership, a major initiative of the business community and Marin Independent Journal, offers local nonprofit organizations assistance with marketing through sponsored ads in the newspaper and online, along with exposure via social media platforms. At the end of 2019, Giving Marin gave back $60,000 generated through the program to Marin County nonprofit organizations. Marin CASA was one of six grantees awarded $10,000 each.
Marin Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) play an important role in Marin County’s Child Welfare System. CASAs are ordinary citizens who volunteer to be the voice of a child who is in the Juvenile Dependency System because they have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Many of these children have been removed from their parents’ care and are residing in foster homes. Supervised by professionals, CASA Volunteers provide advocacy for children in court and in school. They are mentors and friends for children who have suffered greatly and who have lost trust in adults. CASAs are often the one consistent adult in a child’s journey through the “system.” Volunteers make certain that a youth does not face trauma, confusion and the complexities of the courtroom alone.
While much of the world stopped due to the pandemic, Marin CASA’s mission has not been placed on hold. There are many ways, big and small, that CASAs have maintained and built connections from afar. CASAs have found creative ways to meet with children; using technology, dropping off care packages or their child’s favorite food, and when shelter-in-place restrictions were lifted, connecting through physically distanced in-person visits. CASAs are looking ahead to the issues exposed as a result of this pandemic, such as identifying educational resources to address the challenges their children have experienced with distance learning. The organization’s volunteers continue to write and submit court reports, sharing vital information that the judge relies on to make informed decisions that reflect the child’s best interests.
COVID-19 dramatically upended the landscape for foster children. The trauma of abuse and neglect that brings children into the child welfare system has been exacerbated by the fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus. Today there are over 100 children in the Marin County Child Welfare System. Marin CASA anticipated an increase in referrals to the child abuse hotline, due to heightened family stress brought on by the pandemic.
Giving Marin’s $10,000 grant has allowed the organization to devote considerable staff time and resources to developing virtual pre-service trainings, so that there are enough CASAs to meet the need. They are also conducting virtual continuing education trainings. These trainings provide valuable information for volunteers so that during these challenging times they are continuing to provide the quality of service that their CASA child requires and deserves.
Now more than ever it is crucial that the most vulnerable children in our community have a trusted adult who can assure that they are safe and their needs are being met. The funds that Marin CASA received from Giving Marin have helped the CASA staff support the extraordinary work of its volunteers. For information about how to become a volunteer or to make a donation, visit marincasa.org.
-Photo courtesy of Marin CASA