CASA of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties Receives $10,000 Grant from American Century Investments Foundation

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from American Century Investments Foundation to support CASA’s Teen Advocacy program.

CASA’s Teen Advocacy program grew out of a need to provide specific training for CASA advocates working with youth ages 14-18 most likely to age out of the court system without anyone to help them transition to adulthood.  Twenty-five percent (135 out of 460) of all CASA’s 2016 Child Advocacy cases are teenagers.  This subgroup faces the same challenges as all our children in need of care—rapid turnover of case workers, multiple foster placements, frequent school changes, and inconsistent access to mental health services.  In addition, they face unique circumstances and barriers from the reality that they will soon be adults, left to navigate the transition to adulthood on their own upon release from the court system at age 18.  Former foster youth are more likely to drop out of school, experience homelessness, be unemployed, lack health insurance, commit crimes, and experience substance abuse than their peers outside the foster system.

Teen Advocacy volunteers receive additional training and are equipped with curriculum and assessment tools to serve youth age 14-18 to help them develop knowledge, skills, and behaviors that will help put them on a path to self-sufficiency by the time they leave the system.  Grant dollars will be used to help CASA review and update its summative evaluation of the Teen Advocacy services to ensure we are capturing its true impact, meeting the short and long-term needs of the youth, and to ensure CASA’s teen advocates are effectively trained and equipped to succeed. In addition, dollars will help CASA engage in targeted recruitment of volunteers to increase the diversity and cultural competency of our teen advocates.

CASA addresses the diverse needs of children who have been seriously abused or neglected, requiring their removal into foster care. Our goals: to keep children safe from further physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect; to ensure they receive all needed services; and to help them achieve permanency in a safe and stable home as quickly as possible. CASA advocates are often assigned to very challenging cases involving severe abuse and trauma, very young victims, or children exposed to multiple victimization’s.