As an intro, we’re going to share this story from their website as it explains so much about what and why CASA does what it does.
In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, observed a recurring problem in his courtroom.
“In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, you walked out of the courthouse at the end of the day and you said, ‘I’ve done my best; I can live with this decision,’” he explains. “But when you’re involved with a child and you’re trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child’s growth into a mature and happy adult, you don’t feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision. You can’t walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o’clock. You wonder, Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?’”
To ensure the best interest of each child was being represented, the Seattle judge came up with an idea that would change America’s judicial procedure and the lives of over a million children.
So tell us, who are you, where did you come from, and what do you do?
I am Wilma Tom Hashimoto, the Executive Director for CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties. I’ve dedicated my career life to positively changing the trajectory of children who are considered at-risk and recognize that mental health and learning can be augmented by being outside and playing. I am a lifelong resident of Fresno County and have one daughter.
Tell us about the organization
CASA of Fresno County was established in late 1996 with only one full-time staff member and a mere handful of volunteers. In 2006, CASA was granted the opportunity to serve the foster youth of Madera County as well.
Since our inception in 1996, CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties has served foster youth in our region with Judge Soukup’s original goal in mind: to be a voice for our community’s most at-risk children. This has been tirelessly executed with the help of dedicated men and women, from advocates to social workers, attorneys, foster parents, therapists, doctors, teachers, and the myriad of other individuals responsible for the care of our foster youth.
Today, CASA of Fresno and Madera Counties employs a full-time staff and is supporting and equipping more than 250 volunteer advocates as they annually serve more than 300 of the 3,000 abused and neglected children in Fresno and Madera Counties’ foster care system.
300 kids. That’s a lot! When you say 3,000 kids, do they all need help?
There are many children in the system that have connections and are not in need of the services of a CASA – they have a family member or someone support them as they go through this process. For the children involved with CASA, those considered the most neglected or abused, there is typically no one to be there just for them in an advocacy capacity.
We have around 300 in our program and another 150 on the wait list that we desperately want to serve but do not have the capacity to include yet – our dream is to answer the call to every child on that list. We can only do that through increased staffing and more volunteers. We have expanded our program significantly in the last five years and are working to hopefully include all wait list youth in the next 10 years!
Tell us about something that you do that makes you stand out?
Many people ask what makes CASA different from other programs that pair fantastic adults with at-risk youth. The main difference is that Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are sworn officers of the court with unapparelled access to the information related to the foster youth. This means, they know the child’s whole story, including medical and educational histories. They pair this information with the experiences they have with the child, and the details that young person chooses to share with them about their time in the system. Because of these differences, the Special Advocate has the ability to communicate what they understand to be in the best interest of the child by obtaining the whole picture of their current situation.
What is it that most people DON’T know about your organization?
The presence of CASA in a foster youth’s life has the ability to completely change the trajectory of a child’s life. Children with a Special Advocate are more likely to graduate from school, less likely to end up homeless or incarcerated, and report higher levels of hope for their future. The impact of one caring adult, vested in the success of a young person because it is beneficial to the whole community can be truly transformative for a foster child. Any almost anyone can participate with the organization! We constantly need volunteers to help, we need financial support, but most of all we need advocates to serve these little humans who need support. As little as 15 hours a month can be life changing for these children.
How can our readers help?
Readers can learn more about CASA! Visit our website, let us come to your business/organization and share how easy it is to get involved, donate as little as $10 a month. We can help our foster youth THRIVE if we as a community step up to serve them. Whether time, talent or treasure, CASA can use your gifts to make a notable impact for Fresno and Madera’s future.
FRESYES COMMUNITY, HERE IS YOUR CALL TO ACTION!
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Our Crab Feed is coming up on September 8th in Clovis. Attendees support our mission and have a great time doing it! Our goal is to make it easy to play a part in transforming the lives of CASA youths. We encourage everyone to attend the event, sponsor if possible, or donate an item to the auction.
Visit our website and learn more about how easy it is to change the life of a foster youth! You can also call our office at (559) 244-6485 to speak with someone about the area you are interested in and our helpful staff will direct you.
FIND CASA OF FRESNO AND MADERA COUNTIES
Phone: (559) 244-6485
Address: 2300 Tulare St #210, Fresno, CA 93721