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About CASA Tulare County

Learn About Our History and Why We Do What We Do.

History

CASA History

In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, Washington, saw 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 wonder, 'Do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?"

To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, Judge Soukup came up with an idea that would change America's judicial procedure and the lives of over a million children. He obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers. Implemented in Seattle in 1977, the program provided 110 trained CASA volunteers for 498 children in that first year. National recognition and grants resulted in the replication of the Seattle CASA program in courts across the country.

On April 22, 1985, President Ronald Reagan presented the National CASA Association with the President's Volunteer Action Award for "outstanding volunteer contribution, demonstrating accomplishment through voluntary action." In August of 1989, the American Bar Association officially endorsed the use of CASA volunteers to work with attorneys to speak for abused and neglected children in court.

In July of 1990, the U.S. Congress authorized the expansion of CASA with the passage of the "Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990" (P.L. 101-647), so that a "court-appointed special advocate shall be available to every victim of child abuse or neglect in the United States that needs such an advocate." The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect included utilization of CASA and GAL volunteers among critical first steps recommended to bring the "national emergency" of child abuse and neglect in America today under control.

Today the National CASA Association represents nearly 1,000 CASA and guardian ad litem programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia -- recruiting, screening, training and supporting 98,000 volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings.

 

CASA of Tulare County was created in 1984 by concerned community members in 1984, led by local attorney Richard Baily and juvenile court referee George Thurlow. Retired nurse Ruth Voss (Thomas), Visalia Volunteer Bureau Micki Robertson, and Attorney Richard Bailey were the first board of directors and signed the articles of incorporation. Jan Sirkin was the first executive director and oversaw the first class of 20 volunteers who were sworn in on Wednesday, May 2, 1984 by The Honorable Jay Ballantyne. Kiwanis supported the newly established program by allowing it to use its bank account to accept donations before CASA of Tulare County obtained its 501(c)(3) status.

To date 15,000 Tulare County children have been served by volunteers who worked over 300,000 volunteer hours. 

 

As a certified CASA program, CASA of Tulare County adheres to formal standards set by the National CASA Association and is required to pass a quality assurance to maintain membership in the CASA network.

Our Mission

MISSION

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tulare County supports the juvenile court and its dependent children who are innocent victims of abuse and neglect. CASA provides trained community volunteers to represent the best interests and voices of the children we strive to protect.

VISION

We envision a safe and secure world where every foster youth with a CASA advocate discovers their full potential and thrives in the community.

VALUES/PILLARS

Inclusiveness, Hospitality, Compassion, Community, Respect, Acceptance, Cultural Humility

  • Integrity: community engagement, persistence, responsible stewardship

  • Advocacy: healthy boundaries, child-centered focus, empowerment, courage, resilience 

  • Empathy: encouragement, understanding, action, recognition 

 

ETHICS STATEMENT

It is CASA’s duty to promote the safety and well-being of the children for whom we advocate. We prioritize long-term relationships, emotional support, and consistency while maintaining the highest level of confidentiality for the children and community we serve. We pursue CASA’s core goals and outreach to the community, volunteers, and donors with the utmost respect and integrity.

All Hands In

CASA of Tulare County Staff

The faces behind the support, the people who on a daily basis,

give their heart and spirit to the efforts of supporting Tulare County's foster children.

CASA Family

CASA Board Of Directors

CASA OF TULARE COUNTY

EXECUTIVE BOARD

President

Enrique Benavides

VP Operations

Sierra Agra USA

Vice President

Carolina Evangelo

Marketing Director

Schuil Ag Real Estate

Secretary

Sarah Perry

Sr. Finance Analyst

Kaweah Health

Treasurer

Frances Langley

CPA

Scott, Mainord, Langley, & Simmons CPA

Member At Large

Curtis Daugherty

Attorney

The Law Office of Curtis W. Daugherty

Immediate Past President

Brian Albertoni

Area Director of Marketing

World Wide Sales

CASA OF TULARE COUNTY

BOARD DIRECTORS

Cathy Herbst

Homemaker

Danka Vukovic Daniels

Realtor & Property Manager

RE/MAX

Nicholas Ruiz

Attorney

Williams, Brodersen, Pritchett, Ruiz LLP

Tulsi Gupta

Marketing & Communications Manager

Adventist Health

CASA STAFF

Get to know our CASA Staff by clicking on their picture to read more about them!

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Alberto Ramos

Executive Director

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Rosa Rodriguez

Program Manager

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Dena Bettencourt

Administrative Assistant

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TBH

Director of Development & Events

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Melinda Morales Righi

Director of Outreach & Communication

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Araceli Espinoza

Outreach/Training Coordinator

Porterville

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Toni Dumont

0-5 Program Coordinator

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Sandra Rodriguez

0-5 Advocate Coordinator

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Sham Mashael

0-5 Advocate Coordinator

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Joe Iniguez

Family Connections Program Coordinator

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Jessica Gutierrez

Family Connections Advocate Coordinator

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Christian Mulrooney

Advocate Coordinator

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Maribel Marquez

Advocate Coordinator

Our Programs

CASA of Tulare County Programs

We have staff dedicated to ensuring your time as a volunteer is as seamless as we can make it. We help you with your court reports, we help you understand your situations, we are sometimes just here to listen and be a friend in a time of emotional confidentiality. Our Advocate Coordinators are standing by to be YOUR advocate, and we work together for the betterment of our children on a daily basis. 

0 to 5 Years Old

26% of our foster youth are under the age of 1 years old. During the most vulnerable stage of their life, and often already stricken with drug addiction, these infants need constant care. It is in infancy that we develop a sense of trust and dependency on the adult population. CASA Volunteers are often tasked with the important job of ensuring each child is progressing into the stages of development that is essential to their continued growth in childhood.

Through our partnership with First 5 Tulare County, volunteer advocates monitor the development of children 0-5 years old through observation and interaction utilizing the Ages and Stages Questionnaires. The questionnaires allow the advocate to assess whether children are meeting their developmental milestones in communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal social skills. If a child is not meeting developmental milestones the volunteer can make recommendations for appropriate interventions. The earlier development is assessed, the greater the chance a child has to reach his or her potential.

For more information on the actual Age and Stages Questionnaires, please go to  http://agesandstages.com/.

For more information on how you can get involved with CASA of Tulare County's 0 to 5 Program please call us at 559-625-4007 or fill out the volunteer form today!

6 to 21 Years Old

The 6-21 team focuses on children six-years-old and up, until a child “ages out” of foster care adult themselves, or finds permanent placement. More often than not these kids have lived through so much already and they’ve learned their own methods of coping; albeit not always healthy methods. These are the harder cases because as adults we want to give them insight and healthy future goals, but the likelihood of our lectures and talks being helpful can sometimes be slim to none. In fact, the simple act of being present in their lives to listen makes the world of a difference; something very different from a CASA with an infant/toddler.

Older kids in the foster system tend to have moved around much more from placement to placement. This alone causes psychological trauma and is just added on top of the traumas these children have already experienced through abuse and neglect. This proves to be special for CASAs involved in cases like this, because they tend to carry on longer which allows them to be in the child’s life longer and as result build a more lasting relationship with the child. Many times, that relationship can become the most important in their life for a period of time.

 

The 6-21 team has seen much success in their endeavors, even though their job is not as easy. Successes for them come with happy kids, with or without placement and reunification. We strive to encourage our kids to excel, to finish school and move on to higher education, and to feel safe with another human being that is healthy for them. 

Along with having CASAs in place, we work with the community to find ways to help them excel and succeed. For example, some of our kids will be attending camps this summer for a fun excursion away from the chaos they know; one at Yosemite Bible Camp and the other at Royal Family Kids Camp. We’ve also be able to organize backpacks for 157 children as they head back to school; thanks to Ruiz Foods. Recently, we have seen some of our kids move on to graduate high school (which many never will), just because they had a CASA to tell them they’re valuable and capable. Sometimes we’re the only hope they see when meeting after meeting drags on. We are passionate about what we do because these kids, even when difficult, need us. 

Family Connections

Our goal is to connect foster children with as many appropriate family members as possible and to ultimately gain permanent connections.  There is compelling evidence that children who have some connection with members of their birth family have improved behaviors, improved school performance, and more hope in their lives.

This doesn't mean that we focus on reunifying the children with their family, we simply focus on giving the child a sense of identity with culture, family history and background, and with lasting connections that will exceed beyond their time in foster care.

Tulare County CASA's Family Connections Program will identify and attempt to engage family members in the lives of children in the foster care system.

 

The project focuses on connecting children who have no relationships with their extended family members.

 

The Model:

 

The Family Search and Engagement model consists of 6 steps that assist in the prioritization and organization of finding and engaging family members.

 

  1. Discovery: Identify and locate people who are, or could be, considered important to the youth.

  2. Engagement: Communicate with the discovered family members and begin to evaluate the possibility of connecting them with the youth.

  3. Planning: Evaluate information from the previous two stages and take necessary steps to begin the relationship between family/friends and the youth.

  4. Decision: Making: Make timely decisions aimed at providing the youth with appropriate levels of connections that are expected to be enduring.  Resources should be identified to provide support to youth and the family members.

  5. Evaluation:  Assess the individualized plan to achieve legal and emotional permanency.  Create plan B and C.

  6. Follow up Supports: Ensure the family has access to natural and community supports that become enduring.

 

FAMILY isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who WANT YOU in theirs; the ones who ACCEPT YOU for who you are.  The ones who would DO ANYTHING to see you smile and who LOVE YOU no matter what.

 

Please contact Leyhai Pineda at (559) 625-4007 ext 30 or send an email to Leyhai@casatulareco.org for more information on training schedules and how to become involved in Family Connections

Community Partners

We are overjoyed with gratitude to the following sponsors and the many more throughout our community who make a difference just by partnering alongside us to serve our children. It truly takes a community to raise a child!

Community Partners
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