Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) of Los Angeles had their 2nd Annual Evening to Foster Dreams Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Hosted by Dax Shepard and honoring comedian, actor and philanthropist Bill Cosby who received the Robert Morrison Community Service Award in recognition of his dedication to helping children in need. The evening also included a very special performance by Bill Cosby as well as music by the USC Marching Band.
The CASA Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to Harriet Zaretsky, CASA and activist for the incredible impact she has had on the lives of so many foster children during her 20 years of volunteer service. She has dedicated much of her life to help foster kids with problems ranging anywhere from pure survival to family unification. In her early involvement with CASA, she earned a reputation for taking on large families including one with 9 children. Harriet currently supervises 3 children in the system, tirelessly working for change in this system, campaigning to improve the relationships of all the stakeholders present in a foster child's life. She says that often CASA are the only ones who know what is really going on in these childrens' lives. Her advocacy and efforts alone have resulted in many critical changes in the foster care system that positively impact the needs of children today.
While many of these foster kids are on a road paved with uncertainty, CASA LA has given so many a soft place to fall when things got rough. Last year 900 children were appointed a special advocate. The organization aims to increase that number to 1,000 this year in addition to aiding 5,000 children with one-time court appearances.
Unaddressed childhood trauma is the #1 factor for putting children at risk for adulthood problems. CASA also acts as a self-esteem building experience for many at risk youths, giving a voice to youths who have been neglected and abused and allowing them to experience loving kindness during an incredibly vulnerable time in their lives. Because of CASA, more kids are thriving, leading more productive and healthier lives.
Los Angeles has more foster children than any other county in the United States, with over 28,000 children in the dependency system. CASA LA's long-term goal is to be able to provide advocacy for each of these 28,000 children. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life - from retired teachers and social workers to young professionals and stay-at-home moms. Although diverse, they have one thing in common which is their commitment to speaking for a child who has no voice. Foster children in the Dependency Court system face obstacles for the basic care that all children deserve: emotional support, parental guidance, and a stable and loving caregiver in addition to counseling needed to become productive adults. Having a trained advocate to speak up for the child in court and in other important aspects of life is crucial.
Founded in 1977 by Seattle Superior Court Judge David Soukup, CASA organizations provide trained volunteer court-appointed special advocates for foster children across the United States and since it’s founding has grown to a National Association of 946 offices and over 77,000 volunteers serving 234,000 children nationwide.
Through committed, highly trained everyday citizen volunteers, CASA brings the voice of a concerned community into the child welfare system. Studies have shown that children with CASAs receive more assistance and support than children without, and are more likely to be adopted or returned to their families and less likely to reenter the child welfare system. For more information, please visit the CASA of Los Angeles website:casala.
"The family is the nucleus of civilization" - Will Durant