The Voice, Summer 2020

Page 1


Volume No. 31 | Issue 22

in this issue:


A Message From Our President & CEO


In Between Hearings


Riverside County Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary


PRESIDENT & CEO Dear Friends, Maya Angelou once said, “Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” That imagery is particularly fitting for our work at Voices for Children. During these extraordinary times, one thing is abundantly clear: our mission is more critical now than ever. Children in foster care already are disproportionately impacted by economic and social disparities, racial inequities, physical and mental health challenges, and the effects of trauma. When the outside world feels uncertain and their needs are exacerbated, it is


A Message From Our President & CEO

all the more important for children to have the consistent support of an adult who can advocate on their behalf in court, in schools, and in the community. That’s where our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers step in. Despite the stay-at-home order and physical distancing restrictions, our CASAs and staff have found creative and meaningful ways to engage with our children. Despite nearly three months of court closures for all but emergency hearings, our CASAs and staff continued to provide regular reports to the judges about the children and their needs. And despite their own personal hardships, our CASAs and staff have stepped up in remarkable ways to ensure that the children we serve have access to the resources they need. I invite you to read some of their stories on pages 5 – 6 of this newsletter. As our work continues, so does the generosity that makes our mission possible. In this issue, you will see just some of the ways in which our community continues to unite behind the vision of giving a voice to our community’s most vulnerable children. In doing so, we have the special opportunity to provide children with consistency, hope, and encouragement during a scary and difficult time. It is your steady support that provides a rainbow to children in foster care. Thank you from all of us at Voices for Children! With warm regards,

Kelly Capen Douglas, Esq. President & CEO



VOICES FOR CHILDREN’S COVID-19 RESPONSE The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world in ways beyond what we can imagine. It will have a lasting impact on our community, including the children we serve, our volunteers, and our staff at Voices for Children. In early spring, we closely monitored the situation both locally and nationally, remaining in close and regular communication with court and county officials in both San Diego and Riverside Counties. As the situation developed, we worked to make decisions that safeguarded our volunteers, our staff, and, most important, our children.

Here are the key changes Voices for Children implemented in response to COVID-19:


• During the height of the crisis, CASAs and VFC staff refrained from in-person visits with children and other case-related in-person meetings. • In lieu of in-person visits, we encouraged CASAs to be creative in finding ways to stay connected with their case children and to participate in essential meetings remotely if possible. • Through every twist and turn, CASAs have continued supporting their youth, including by advocating for their needs via written court reports and, now that court hearings have resumed,

through telephonic and virtual appearances at those hearings. • Nearly all of VFC staff have been working remotely. • We have transitioned our volunteer information sessions and Advocate University to an online format so that we can continue meeting the needs of our community’s most vulnerable children, and so we are prepared for the anticipated spike in reports of child abuse once schools and childcare facilities resume operations.

During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers were not able to meet with their case youth in person. Not to be deterred, our CASAs have conjured up creative ways of engaging with and supporting their foster children.

CASA and Youth Cook Together Over Video Chat CASA Catherine is assigned to “Francis,”* a non-minor dependent (NMD) who recently took the leap toward independent living by moving into an apartment. Due to the fact that Francis now lives alone without the support of a caregiver, CASA Catherine made it her goal to provide Francis with advice and assistance. After his move, Catherine began increasing her visits with him from twice a month to once a week in order to monitor his wellbeing. She also took this opportunity to help him make healthy food choices by taking him grocery shopping and teaching him new recipes. With the spread of COVID-19 and installment of California’s “stay-at-home” protection order, CASA Catherine could no longer make regular in-person visits, so she began checking in on Francis multiple times a week via phone or video calls. To continue helping him develop his independent living skills, Catherine decided to coordinate FaceTime cooking sessions with him, when the two would walk through a recipe live through video chat. This way, Francis could continue to make healthy food choices, and Catherine could ensure the young man was adjusting well to living alone. Thanks to the compassion and commitment of volunteers like Catherine, our foster youth are able to continue receiving the support they desperately need during this unprecedented time. Without CASA Catherine, Francis may not have had someone to communicate with regularly during this time of isolation, and the impact of their time together will last well beyond the meals they shared.



CASA Continues Easter Tradition In Riverside County, CASA Pamela has been assigned to 15-year-old “Thomas�* since November 2018. Pamela and Thomas have had a positive relationship from the very beginning. As of recently, the two check in on each other by phone and are looking forward to their next visit. In 2019, Pamela presented Thomas with his very first Easter basket. Thomas loved his basket full of chocolate bunnies, small toys, and plastic eggs filled with jelly beans. They looked forward to spending Easter together again this year and were hoping to decorate eggs and go on an Easter egg hunt. Unfortunately, their plans were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Pamela was unable to visit Thomas this past Easter, she instead made him his annual basket and had it shipped to his foster home. Even though they were not able to celebrate in person, their Easter basket tradition was able to continue. Thomas was happy to be able to still celebrate Easter with his CASA over the phone and was very appreciative of his basket! *Names and other identifying details have been changed to protect confidentiality.



WINE WOMEN & SHOES 2020 On May 1–May 3, Voices for Children hosted its first ever virtual Wine Women and Shoes. Although the annual event looked different this year, its purpose remained the same: to support VFC’s mission to transform the lives of children in foster care by providing them with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). Chaired by Patricia Brutten and Marina Marrelli, participants enjoyed an online auction, donation opportunities to Fund-A-CASA, and links to shop and support local small business while giving back to VFC. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support this event received from the community, raising more than $250,000 to support our CASA program! Thank you to our generous event sponsors: Cadence Travel, Dansko, and Capstone Advisors.

Clockwise from top left: VFC President & CEO Kelly Capen Douglas presenting a bottle of wine during the live auction segment; CASA Bruce Meyer during his virtual interview; and Wine Women & Shoes Co-Chair Patty Brutten raising a glass during the event introduction video.



IN BETWEEN HEARINGS When becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), volunteers commit to being matched with a child or sibling set for a minimum of 18 months, though many choose to continue serving beyond that timeframe. Over the course of those 18 months — the average amount of time that it takes the court to determine the best permanency plan for a child — court hearings are typically held every 6 months. A CASA’s presence at court hearings gives children a sense of security in what can be a very intimidating setting and allows judges to ask questions of the CASA to inform their decisions. However, it’s in between these hearings where the foundation for a CASA’s advocacy is laid as they build a trusting relationship with their case child, communicate with other professionals supporting the child, and observe the child in their day-to-day life.


In Between Hearings

Relationship Building

Whether through in-person visits or phone and video calls, CASAs are able to get to know their case child(ren) in ways that other professionals may not be able to. Often times, a child’s CASA becomes the adult they have known the longest, and that benefit is irreplaceable.

Educational Advocacy

Sometimes, a foster child’s parents or caregivers aren’t able to make educational decisions on behalf of the child, so the court will appoint CASAs to hold the child’s educational rights. This could involve logging onto online school portals to check grades, advocating for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), or even working with teachers to ensure the child receives the resources they need to succeed.

Communicating with Professionals

A CASA becomes a part of a child’s “team.” As the eyes and ears of the court, CASAs have access to the other members of children’s support network, such as teachers, social workers, attorneys, doctors, and more. By staying in communication with each of these professionals, the CASA is able to get a more complete picture of the child’s situation, and ultimately, is able to provide valuable information to the judge who oversees the case.

Providing New Experiences

While this aspect of the CASA role is not required to serve as a good advocate, many CASAs take their older case child(ren) on fun outings. Thanks to Voices for Children’s partnerships, CASAs enjoy free admission to many local museums and attractions. These outings with CASAs create special, fun memories for children who are going through such difficult times.

Connecting to Resources

CASAs work behind the scenes to ensure their case children receive the resources they need to thrive. From finding extracurricular activities in which children participate, to noticing that a child is squinting and needs glasses, CASAs are able to make both small wins and big milestones possible for the youth they serve. While it’s important to remember that every CASA’s case, routine, and decisions look different, the vision of all CASAs is the same: to provide needed advocacy for children in foster care and to be a consistent support for them. Every foster child is unique and will require tailored solutions, but with just 10–15 hours a month, any adult can provide care and stability to a child in need.



Information Sessions

UPCOMING INFO SESSIONS Since March 2020, our teams in both San Diego and Riverside Counties have offered online information sessions in response to the global pandemic. We will continue to offer virtual opportunities as long as necessary, and we invite you to visit for updates on upcoming Information Sessions. Join us at one of the following sessions to learn more about how you can become an advocate for a child in foster care.


Saturday, August 1, 2020 | 10:00–11:30 AM Tuesday, August 18, 2020 | 6:00–7:30 PM Saturday, September 12, 2020 | 10:00–11:30 AM RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Monday, July 20, 2020 | 9:00–10:30 AM Tuesday, July 21, 2020 | 5:30–7:00 PM Thursday, July 30, 2020 | 4:00–5:30 PM


Click to Register Now >

REAL WORD RECAP On Wednesday, May 13, we hosted our first ever virtual “Real Word” speakers panel. More than Sign up to receive 170 attendees filled the Zoom meeting to hear information on future directly from our current and former foster “Real Word” events > youth. Panelists Anthony, Corrin, Vanessa, Rosie, and Priscilla spoke about their time in the foster care system, how COVID-19 has affected them, and answered questions submitted by the audience. The Real Word provides an educational, eye-opening experience that both celebrates Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers and communicates the vital need for more volunteer advocates.



Riverside County Updates

Fifth Anniversary Celebrations The Riverside County CASA program celebrated five years of advocating for children in foster care! The Riverside County team partnered with the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce, the Murrieta/Wildomar Chamber of Commerce, and the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce to mark this milestone and to recognize the outstanding service our CASAs provide to children in our community. Local elected officials, their representatives, and other community leaders joined Voices for Children staff to thank our CASA volunteers at three gatherings held in Riverside, Murrieta, and Palm Desert. Voices for Children began its service to Riverside County in 2015. There are CASAs from the first Advocate University class who continue to advocate for children today. The Riverside County team recruits, trains, and supports CASAs from three field offices located in Riverside, Murrieta, and Palm Desert. Voices for Children extends our profound gratitude to the volunteers, donors, and community leaders who have joined our effort to provide unparalleled advocacy to children in foster care over the last five years. 12

Riverside County Updates

AWARDS Voices for Children was honored to receive the Desert United Nonprofit Recognition Award in January 2020 for our service to children in the greater Palm Springs area. The Desert United Luncheon presents this award based on a vote by community members to recognize organizations that are making valuable contributions to the Coachella Valley. The Riverside County team was honored to have the advocacy of Voices for Children’s CASA volunteers highlighted in this way and thanks Mario Hernandez and his team at Mario’s Tile Care for organizing the luncheons and presenting this award. CASA Crystal Swain received the UNITY Collaborative’s Community Service Award for her dedicated service as a CASA volunteer. Crystal has served as a CASA volunteer since 2015. Crystal advocated for her first case child for four years as she transitioned into adulthood. Crystal took her prom dress shopping, attended her high school graduation, and helped her navigate through life post-high school. Crystal is currently advocating for a 16-year-old girl. When this young lady was moved to a placement that was 90 miles from Crystal’s home, Crystal continued to provide her with outstanding advocacy and to visit her regularly.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR CASA VOLUNTEERS Did you know? The California Rules of Court require that all CASA volunteers complete 12 hours of continuing education each year. The Riverside County team has been collaborating with community partners to identify unique and engaging learning opportunities. During the first few months of 2020, Riverside County CASAs toured local group homes and shortterm residential treatment facilities (STRTPs), attended a youth-led workshop on stereotypes and bias facilitated by students at John W. North High School, and visited The Apathy Effect, a national touring exhibit that uses art and photography to document the experiences of children who have survived human trafficking. Since the start of the global pandemic, Voices for Children staff has continued to provide continuing education services to CASAs in an online format. VOICES FOR CHILDREN


WAYS TO GIVE Become a monthly donor. A little can go a long way. Voices for Children is keeping children in foster care connected during this time of social distancing, school closings, and uncertainty related to the COVID-19 crisis. You can help ensure that children in foster care have a CASA of their very own to turn to during this difficult time. Make a difference today! An automatic, monthly gift — charged to your credit or debit card or debited from your bank account — is the easiest way to give. Click here to make your recurring gift >

CHANGES IN THE LAW IMPACT CHARITABLE GIVING STRATEGIES A $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act will have significant economic and financial planning impacts on individuals and businesses. Dowling & Yahnke, one of San Diego’s preeminent wealth management firms and a long-time supporter of Voices for Children, summarized how the new law may allow you to make an even bigger philanthropic impact during these difficult times. New Charitable Deduction For those who do not itemize deductions, there will be an allowable “above the line” deduction for charitable donations of cash, not to exceed $300.

New Charitable Contribution Limits for Cash Donations The 2020 charitable contribution limitation for individuals will now be 100% of adjusted-grossincome, or “AGI,” if you donate cash directly to a charity. Cash donations were previously limited to 60% of AGI. Any deduction for charitable contributions above this income limitation (100% of AGI for cash and 30% of AGI for stock gifts) carries over for five years. Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) QCDs from IRA accounts continue to be allowed starting at age 70-½ up to a limit of $100,000 per year per IRA owner. QCDs can be made in 2020 even with the waiver of Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs).

This material is presented for informational purposes only and should not be construed as individual legal, tax, or financial advice. For more information, please contact your financial advisor.



October 3, 2020 Starry Starry Night #lighting the way

7:30 PM • Live Stream Program

Join Voices for Children in #lightingtheway for San Diego's youth in foster care. As Voices for Children begins its 40th year of service in San Diego County, Starry Starry Night will support the life-changing advocacy of Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers for children in San Diego’s foster care system. This virtual event is open to our entire community. Registration will open on August 3. For sponsorship opportunities and other information, please call 858-598-2261 or visit VOICES FOR CHILDREN


Hope, Help, and Belief for Foster Children: The Sahm Family Foundation As the legendary basketball star Magic Johnson once said, “All kids need is a little “All kids need help, a little hope, and someone who is a little help, believes in them.” Voices for Children is a little hope, deeply grateful to the Sahm Family and someone Foundation for the help, hope, and belief who believes they have bestowed upon San Diego County in them.” foster children. The Sahm Family Foundation — MAGIC JOHNSON has been instrumental in helping Voices for Children to carry out our mission by providing consistent and generous financial support. Ms. Ramona Sahm’s concern for the welfare of children led her to make her first donation to Voices for Children in 1993, and Ms. Sahm and the Sahm Family Foundation have supported Voices for Children ever since. Over the past 27 years, their philanthropic efforts have made it possible for Voices for Children to provide CASAs to hundreds of children. This year alone, the foundation has directly funded the assignment of a CASA volunteer to 40 foster youth. Each of these children will have a consistent and caring adult who will get to know them, support them, and advocate on their behalf. The impact that the Sahm Family Foundation has made will continue to be felt in the lives of foster youth for years to come.


BOARD MEMBER LIST FY2020–2021 AnneElise Goetz, Esq., Chair Annette Bradbury, Vice Chair Lise N. Wilson, Esq., Secretary George Lai, Treasurer William B. Sailer, Esq., Immediate Past Chair Melise Balastrieri Mary Benirschke David Bialis Ryan Blair Patty Cohen Nancy Banning Doyle Gina Ellis Lisette Farrell P. Randolph Finch, Jr., Esq. The Hon. Susan D. Huguenor (Ret) Erbin Keith, Esq. Richard Kintz, Esq. Andrea Payne Moser Jennifer O’Connell Hollis R. Peterson, Esq. Nancy R. Pfeiffer Kristi Pfister, Esq. Penny E. Robbins Lauree Sahba Katie Sullivan Ted Tchang Dale E. Yahnke, CFA, CFP® Kelly Capen Douglas, Esq. President & CEO

Mission Voices for Children transforms the lives of abused, abandoned,

or neglected children by providing them with trained, volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).

Vision Voices for Children believes that every child deserves a safe and

permanent home and, to that end, will provide a trained CASA volunteer to every abused, abandoned, or neglected child who needs one, and advocate to improve the lives of children in the foster care system.

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