Voices for Children Panel Blog Series: Anthony's Foster Care Story
In September, Voices for Children provided a panel discussion with two individuals who have gone through the childcare system and shared what helped them become the strong, thriving adults they are today. The outcomes and experiences of these two showcase the positive impact the CASA program has on the trajectory of children who have experienced abuse and neglect and how they can overcome this to better their future.
Voices for Children’s mission is to transform the lives of children who are abused, abandoned, or neglected by providing them with trained, volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA’s). Founded in San Diego in 1980, Voices for Children is a private, nonprofit organization that recruits, trains, and supports CASA volunteers who speak up for the needs and well-being of children in foster care. As the only agency designated by the courts to provide CASA volunteers in San Diego and Riverside Counties, Voices for Children’s CASAs play a crucial role in helping judges make the most informed decisions for children’s futures.
The moderator for the webinar was Greg, a Professor UCLA. Greg recently became a CASA Volunteer after a former student, juvenile court judge and other people in his life were telling him about the program. As a Professor, Greg has a passion for activism and driving social change. In his role as an educator, he has seen success by raising people up in a holistic fashion with education and focus on future careers. An alarming stat Greg became aware of aided in his decision to become a CASA Volunteer.
Greg stated that he heard an alarming statistic that “54% of foster children graduate high school compared to 84% nationwide.” When investigating this information further, Greg found that a stable adult in the lives of children in foster care is the single most contributor to success. Supportive adults help children’s success in education and help push through challenges when they arise. A CASA volunteer is specifically serving the need for children to have a trusted, caring, and consistent adult that supports them throughout their life.
The CASA volunteer role includes Court Reporting and highlighting and addressing needs, so the child feels less as if they are going through this process alone. Finding ways to support the children is an important part of why Greg volunteers. He said the best way to support the children is,
“Asking about school, providing insight from a different perspective to allow the children to see that there is something else on the other side of this current circumstance.”
The first of two individuals who provided insight on their experience in the foster system was Anthony. Currently, Anthony is a 21-year-old student attending UCLA, studying Sociology Communications. Vanessa, is 20 years old and is also attending UCLA and pursuing a Sociology Major. Anthony’s interview is provided here. Vanessa’s will follow in part II of the blog.
Anthony bounced between houses in childhood, his parents were young when they had him at 17 and 18 years old. They struggled with being mature enough and able to provide for a child. Anthony had spent time with his great grandma and great aunt.
During his elementary school years, Anthony attended 13 different schools and because of this Anthony struggled to find the support he needed, the educational foundation and groundwork desired to excel.
When he was 12 years old, Anthony was introduced to his CASA volunteer who started providing positive support in his life. In middle school he was able to stay in the area he was from and with a familiar foster family. There, he was able to finish middle school and had a support system and friends. Anthony attended three different high schools and was placed in multiple foster homes. In his final case, he was brought in to one foster home then guardianship with great aunt.
What was a barrier faced in school?
Being in the foster care system in school there was a biased perspective from the counselors. This feeling was something Anthony felt from much of the administration in schools, for example, “teachers and principals not expecting as much from you or looking down at you.” In his later high school years Anthony felt, counselors were not supportive in his plans for higher education.
What allowed for success in school?
“I am thankful for my CASA recognizing the need to help with higher education”, states Anthony. “Education is what is going to get me out of this loop. The generational cycle my parents went though as teenagers and their parents unable to help with me. The CASA program truly created opportunity for me and other youth in care. It was positive having people around modeling what education can do for you and what you can achieve.”
How did you find your place on campus?
Participating in sports allowed Anthony to find his place during school. Sports were comforting, it allowed Anthony to instantly connect with friends and have a great support system. Without sports and support, Anthony thought it would have been tough. “It makes a difference to have friends and other kids around with similar interests and for me that was baseball and basketball”, states Anthony.
How did your CASA support you in transitions and how did they help tap into who you want to be vs who they wanted you to be?
“My CASA was supportive and helpful in making me feel confident in myself,” Anthony said. “He provided me with resources and feedback allowing me to be capable to succeed in anything I wanted or chose to pursue.”
What does your future look like?
Anthony’s future plans are to support his brother though high school. He has a little brother, JR, who did not go through the foster system, and was with his biological dad. Anthony’s plans are to help be there and be a sibling his brother can turn to with questions and for support.
Anthony is currently a senior, at UCLA and interning with the LA Chargers. He looks forward to his bright future!
How has your experience created who you have become?
This experience has created “Anthony”. He wouldn’t want to denounce or put down the situations he has overcome. “The entire process is part of creating yourself,” he stated.
All Anthony has experienced and households he has been a foster at, have created who he is. He said he was grateful for the opportunities he has had.
“Trials make you go through a lot and force you to grow. Learning to accept what you cannot control and everyday become better,” said Anthony.
How to improve the lives and future in foster care?
Provide resources for youth in foster care at a certain age so they can help themselves. Anthony was given a pamphlet, for services and he felt this could be presented to the CASA’s and social workers to help aid the children for higher education and provide a path on how to help them get there. It would be helpful to give CASA’s and other adults involved, opportunities that are available and benefits that are out there that can be taken advantage of, for the children in foster care.
The benefits of a CASA Volunteer to a child in foster care are unmatchable. Having that one person to trust and believe in the child makes all the difference. Providing this support will change the trajectory of the children’s lives and increase the graduation statistic of children in foster care.
Want More Information About Volunteering for CASA?
Take the first step and follow these steps online or attend a General Information Meeting in Person:
CASA/GAL Volunteer General Info
Becoming a CASA/GAL Volunteer Video
CASA/GAL Role & Responsibilities
Have More Questions? Answers to More FAQ’S
Follow the Link to find General Information Meeting Dates and Register:
CASA Kane County is nonprofit volunteer organization advocating for the best interest of children in abuse and neglect situations throughout Northern Illinois. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian ad Litem) volunteers are specially trained to become the objective voice of a child for a judge.
CASA Kane County is currently seeking VOLUNTEERS! To learn more and Change a Child’s Story, please visit the organization’s website at www.casakanecounty.org or call 630-232-4484.