CASA Kane County currently serves 100 percent of all children in both the abuse/neglect and probate courts within the 16th Judicial Court System. As a nonprofit organization advocating for the best interests of abused and neglected children, CASA has extended its outreach, services, training and collaboration with agencies and other community donors to take its transitional youth program to the next level in supporting these young adults leaving foster care.
Many of the older youth have been in the system for numerous years and operate on a “day to day” basis with no plans for the future. Once they are living independently and no longer under the umbrella of the child welfare system, they are at a higher risk of becoming a statistic.
National Child Welfare Statistics found that 24 percent of former foster children were homeless after aging out of the system, 61 percent were unemployed after one year, and 53.5 percent were still unemployed five years later. These youth are also 25 percent more likely to experience teen pregnancy and 30 percent will later abuse their own children.
CASA Kane County is providing specialized training several times annually for its CASA/GAL (guardian ad litem) volunteers and staff who are working with kids in the court system so they can begin planning better for their future and begin establishing long-term relationships that will help them succeed. They will work closely with CASA/GAL volunteers and staff on developing a sustainable life-plan to access resources; track the pertinent details of their lives; and provide ongoing support and guidance.
The CASA/GAL volunteers will help connect these youth to community housing, education, employment, healthcare, and other resources needed to ensure that the youth in their cases remain focused on positive objectives.
The organization has always provided consistent one-on-one support for its youth through trained CASA/GAL volunteers, but the goal of this new initiative is to provide young people with the tools they need to become responsible for their own future, be self-sufficient, develop permanent connections for continued support, and become productive adult members of society.
“My relationship with my CASA is amazing,” one youth said at a recent CASA training that featured a foster youth panel. “He’s gotten to know not only me, but the people in my inner circle who are important to me, and that says a lot.”
CASA Kane County serves on average 600 children annually with 150 in the age group of 14-21 needing extensive life-skills training that many of us take for granted. Many of the youth have never been taught how to read a bus schedule, learn about a W-2 form, understand credit scores, or learn how to get a job to afford living independently. Many are also not aware of where to even start — school, job, the military — and that there are resources available to them if they only knew how to access them.
CASA Kane County Executive Director Gloria Bunce says youth in foster care are amazingly determined to overcome obstacles.
“But they have a tough road ahead and need someone who is going to champion for them to help reach their full potential,” she said. “The CASA/GAL volunteer truly becomes that ambassador in the lives of these youth and begins to build the trust and love they need to lead a better life. Youth in foster care need and deserve our time, support and most importantly an adult that will hold their hand through good and bad times so they know how special they are and they are important.”
CASA Kane County is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the Juvenile Court system.
To learn more, please visit the organization’s website at www.casakanecounty.org.