Recent News from CASA, June 26, 2020:
CASA Of Tulare County buildings will be
open for business beginning: June 29th, 2020
CASA of Tulare County office was closed, beginning March 19th, in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Out of consideration for the health and safety of the public and CASA of Tulare County staff, and volunteers, we advise the continued practice of social distancing and the use of face masks when conducting business in person.
CASA of Tulare County Buildings are located at:
1146 N. Chinowth Ave.
93 N Main St Ste E
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Monday - Thursday: 8:00am-6:00pm
Tuesday & Thursday: 9:00am-2:00pm
Recent News from CASA, June 1, 2020:
Dear CASA family,
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the immense violence – expressed through both physical brutalities by police and overt racism and hatred from many – that black and brown communities have faced this week. We acknowledge that these events are part of a long history of systemic racism and trauma that deeply impact our colleagues and the families we serve. We also acknowledge that these experiences are part of the daily existence of people of color and that the anxiety, pain, and fear are real and frequent feelings of our colleagues, volunteers, and families we serve.
CASA/Tulare County is committed to values of deep love and justice and we are committed to standing in solidarity with communities of color in Minnesota, Georgia, and Kentucky who have experienced the murder of a loved one. We are also committed to continuing to work for racial justice in Tulare County and to be a force to dismantle systemic racism in child welfare and juvenile justice. We have a lot of work to do – both within CASA/Tulare County and in the system, but we won’t be backing down.
In acknowledging the events of this past week/ weekend and the constant images, news, and reality of violence and injustice against Black communities and bodies over the past weeks, years, decades, and centuries are painful for all of us to watch and feel but particularly impact our staff (and volunteers and kids and families) of color. Our leadership team wants to support our team as much as possible and show solidarity with this battle for justice. One thing I thought of that we could do to help, albeit small, is to offer you the option of talking about any feelings that you may have on these issues or at least taking it easy if you feel like that would help you. There is no need to do anything except take the time you need unless you feel the need to speak ASAP, in which case I need you to reach out to myself or Alberto to take advantage of this offer and, if you need time yourself, to reach out to Alberto, or I to let us know if you need help with anything that needs attention.
For our colleagues of color, we see you, we love you.
Eric Johnson, Executive Director
OP-ED Tulare County Court Appointed Special Advocates April 2020:
WE CANNOT LET THIS GLOBAL HEALTH PANDEMIC EVOLVE INTO
A CHILD ABUSE PANDEMIC EVOLVE INTO A CHILD ABUSE PANDEMIC
Even in the best of times, child welfare systems in California are beleaguered, underfunded, and stressed. There are too few social workers for foster children and their troubled birth families, and these caseworkers are often overworked within a huge bureaucratic system. Juvenile Dependency judges will have caseloads of 500 children, and children’s attorneys are likewise overloaded. Last year, California had 83,000 children living in foster care—the largest number of any state in the nation.
Times are tough enough for a child who has been removed from their family because of parental abuse or neglect. And foster care is nothing we would wish on any child. But the invisible, stealthy, silent enemy that is COVID-19 has thrown all of this dysfunction into even more chaos.
More and more, child welfare departments are starting to limit in-person emergency visits to only the most severe cases. Thus, welfare check-ups are going down just when the potential for child abuse is rising. For social workers, the potential toll is physical as well as emotional. The national shortage of gloves, masks, and safety gear is impacting foster care, as caseworkers worry about visiting homes without any protection. The court’s mandated visits between biological families and children are stopped because of the pandemic. And shutdowns at family courts are burdening all parties—children and families, judges, court professionals, foster families—and the result will be even longer stays in foster care for children who have already experienced unthinkable adverse life experiences.
The closing of schools has been a disaster for abused children. Teachers are the primary reporters of suspicious bruises or behavior suggesting child abuse. But now those protective eyes and ears are not on children who may be being seriously hurt at home. There is a rise in admissions to hospitals of children injured by family members, and it is not surprising. Sadly, history has shown us that child abuse increases when there is heightened family stress such as that now being brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.
But there can be other valuable “eyes and ears” on children: Court Appointed Special Advocates—called “CASAs”—who play a powerful part in California’s foster care system statewide. In Tulare County CASA is an important community resource. Our CASAs are ordinary citizens who volunteer to be the “voice” of a child in foster care. They are recruited and well-trained by one of the 44 local CASA programs that cover the regions of California where 99% of foster children live. Today, across the state, 9,000 of these volunteers are advocating for 14,000 children in foster care. Here in Tulare County, we currently have 113 active volunteers serving 230 kids.
Supervised in their advocacy work by CASA program professionals, CASA volunteers are effective and influential advocates for children in court and in school. Moreover, they are mentors and friends –adult role models for children who have suffered greatly and who have lost all trust in adults. CASAs help children get the medical and educational support they need, and they work with the professionals in the child welfare system towards either reunification with a family (if services are completed) or towards adoption and a permanent living plan for the child.
COVID-19 has dramatically upended the landscape for CASA programs. CASAs can no longer visit their case children face-to-face, and can only connect through text, phone, or Facetime. With school out, it is harder for CASAs to inspire a child to do their homework or read more books. CASAs try to help their children from the required “social distance,” but it is difficult. There are now no outings to a park, a library, or an ice cream shop—those “ordinary” times a CASA shares with a child who may be deprived of such experiences. Most important, many Juvenile Dependency courts are now either shut down or operating on limited schedules and so the critical court advocacy that CASAs offer to foster children is on temporary hold. All the while, the child is living in temporary and often less-than-ideal foster circumstances, not sure what the future holds or where he or she will be living next month or next year. Older foster youth are suffering from lost jobs or, if they were attending college, a lost school year—including no dorm living. For these older kids, the chance increases for them to become homeless, hungry, sick, trafficked, or tempted into crime.
Like all nonprofits, CASA programs are facing a drastic drop in contributed income. Fundraising events have been canceled, and donations are shrinking. While volunteers are the heart of the CASA movement, these nonprofit CASA programs are essential to professionally recruit, train, and supervise critical court advocates. The truth is: we need CASAs now more than ever. And we need more of them. We know we will be seeing a rise in child abuse and in children entering foster care. A CASA can be a beacon of hope to a child who has lost all hope, and it is essential that the CASA system in California be shored up and adequately supported by public and private funders. CASAs are critical in helping children recover from trauma and ultimately find that safe “forever family” that we wish for all kids.
Foster children are our children, and we must help them through this pandemic nightmare which impacts them so disproportionately. Even at the height of this pandemic, CASA of Tulare County is recruiting volunteers and is prepared to conduct training “virtually” while we practice social distancing. What better way to spend time at home than training to be a CASA? We need you!
We cannot let this global health pandemic evolve into a child abuse pandemic. And we cannot allow those children entering foster care to be left to languish because there are not enough CASAs to advocate for their best interests. We urge the California State Legislature to enact emergency support for the 44CASA programs that are helping 14,000 children and that must continue to do this important work even through the horror of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we urge members of the community to step up now and volunteer to help a child. We must not forget the abused, neglected children in our community. They need and deserve the advocacy that only a CASA can deliver.
Eric Johnson, Executive Director
CASA of Tulare County
As of April 8, 2020:
With the safety and health of our community in mind, the Once Upon A Dream Gala that was scheduled for May 8, 2020 has been postponed to September 3, 2020, from 5:00 pm-10:00 pm; still held at the Visalia Convention Center.
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on nonprofits, like CASA of Tulare County, is beginning to be seen more widely, with upcoming events being canceled nationwide. Events like the annual gala, help keep our program sustainable and active through the generosity of supporters like you.
We would be most grateful for your continued support of CASA in any way you can. We realize events will be postponed or canceled, but our kids' situations are not on pause or postponed. Should you feel that you’re in need of a refund or reimbursement, please contact us.
We apologize for the inconvenience that might result from this change. We appreciate your understanding of our situation. Please make the changes to your calendars.
Eric D. Johnson, Executive Director & Shurene Curti, Board President
As of March 31, 2020:
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has rallied the CASA of Tulare County community to stay connected during a challenging time. Staff members are reaching out and learning remotely. Staff continues to provide the essential functions of outreach, marketing, and advocacy online; and everyone adjusts to a new normal, just as every CASA is across America.
Kiddos are grappling with stress as they are moving off of school campuses, struggle emotionally, and encounter the economic realities of their families who are strained for resources. Our kids' emergency needs include everything from safe housing and food insecurity, access to teachers for classwork, financial assistance with job loss, and counseling for mental health.
CASA of Tulare County is facing new challenges to serve the needs of our kids. We have had to postpone a major fundraiser event (Superhero Run + Carnival) with the likely hood of having to make the tough decision, to postpone another one this Spring (Once Upon A Dream Gala). A year of celebration has paused as the CASA community faces the challenge of serving kiddos during and after the pandemic. It is a critical time to ensure that kids receive the support they need to complete their schoolwork and have a sense of normalcy while being in a safe environment. CASA is quickly depleting its emergency resources to help kiddos at this critical time.
We are focusing on a few high need areas, including the following: emergency needs, health and wellness, impact fund (Give-4-Hope), mission integration programming, and our advocacy programming. We need the help of our community more than ever, now is the time to step up, now is the time to rally together for a common good. Now is the time to Change a Child's Story.
Eric Johnson, Executive Director
As of March 18, 2020:
While the world feels a little strange, we are focused both on the health of our community, and the safety, health, and well-being of our foster children. They may feel the most alone in these moments, but we haven't given up! Even though we cannot have human-to-human contact right now, we still have a job to do. Staff is working to ensure an active communication is taking place during these trying times. They will be making many phone calls to check on the well-being of our children, encourage the advocates to make phone-visits with their kiddos, and treat this entire situation calmly. You may not be able to visit us, but you can still contact us! There are many ways to contact CASA of Tulare County staff:
You can call our offices and leave a message: 559-625-4007
You can access our website and submit a web inquiry:
You can send us a message on any of our social media pages; Facebook will have a faster response time.
A note from Executive Director, Eric Johnson:
These are extraordinary times. Amid the spread of COVID-19. We hope everyone is taking care of and exercising precautions as prescribed by local health authorities. CASA of Tulare County is well-positioned to meet the challenges thanks to our infrastructure, Board of Directors, and our exceptional staff. Based on the direction from public health authorities as well as, our Governor. We have provided employees who would normally work from our main office in Visalia, and our outlying office in Porterville the ability to work remotely, effective immediately. CASA of Tulare County is continuing to operate under normal business hours, Monday through Thursday 8 am to 6 pm. If you have any concerns or questions regarding the Program side of the organization. Please contact Alberto Ramos at or by phone(562)480-1348.
We thank all of our partners in the community, the many men and women continuing to work to provide for our basic needs, our volunteers, staff, and all of our CASA family, for remaining united and strong during these difficult days. While our communities are at-risk. It has been encouraging to see the work you are doing toward the greater good. We will continue to do everything in our power to support our volunteers and kiddos.
Eric Johnson, Executive Director