Foster Youth Need CASAs

Maegan MattockMaegan Mattock is a Senior Program Coordinator for CASA of Los Angeles who trains CASA volunteers to advocate for children in the Los Angeles foster care system. CASA volunteers develop plans to help children navigate resources for successful outcomes in all areas of life. Working at CASA has allowed Megan to immerse herself in better social work practices by identifying the roots of the issues children face.

“In terms of diversity it’s challenging for CASA. It’s one of the big areas we are working on. We are trying to recruit CASAs from the same communities we serve.

“It requires a strong degree of cultural competency and understanding. To be more effective as a social worker I had to own my white privilege knowing that I work in communities of color and often times in communities that are under scrutiny because of institutionalized racism, which is very different from my own. You have to be self-reflective about what you bring, even though it might seem uncomfortable.

“Having ongoing discussions about diversity and privilege with our volunteers about expectations and how to advocate for their child is very important. We want them to be sensitive to culture and understand that the communities we serve may not have the same resources that they have. We also want to make sure we impact with the best advocacy work the CASA can do.

“CASAs have the ability to be more mindful in their advocacy by asking the children what they want or need — to provide a voice for the child that they might not otherwise have. Decisions made in the cases we advocate for are not in our hands but we look for other positive ways to effect the youth. I find the littlest changes can make a huge impact. There was a girl in her early teens who had braces on for a long time. She had never gotten any dental check ups and she was in pain. Her CASA volunteer went to the judge and told him what was going on. They were able to get her back on track with her braces appointments and they eventually came off. That is huge for a teenage girl.

“CASAs are particularly valuable for transitional aged youth (16-24). The teens have so much potential and they need someone stable to help put the pieces together. Many youth are constantly moving from home to home and fall behind in their studies. Without the CASA volunteer to provide support, the youth’s educational future might seem unsure when it comes to graduating high-school and applying for colleges.

“AB-12 is a bill that extends the foster youths’ stay in the system until 21, and I am really excited about it. Homelessness is such an issue for youth who leave the system at 18 and have nowhere to go. I think back to myself starting college and how inexperienced I was in life and compare it to the system ending for these kids who are not even full adults yet.

“Through AB-12, I have seen so many successes where kids thrive with the support from CASA volunteers. That makes my job worth it.”