Children in area foster care may soon have more advocates thanks to a $25,000 Coachella Valley Spotlight grant from the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, in partnership with News Channel 3. The grant presented to Voices for Children (VFC) is earmarked to recruit and train 50 new Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers to build its current volunteer base to 350 individuals.
“VFC believes that every child deserves a safe and permanent home and, to that end, seeks to provide a trained CASA to every child who needs one,” said Jessica Munoz, Executive Director for Voices for Children. “This one-on-one advocacy transforms the lives of children who are navigating the foster care system, many of whom have been abused or neglected.”
CASAs must complete a 35-hour training program, then they are matched with a single child or a sibling group to provide advocacy to ensure that children’s specific needs do not get lost in a complex and bureaucratic system. CASAs typically spend about 10-15 hours a month helping a child navigate foster care and related governmental processes.
“It’s wonderful that these specially trained volunteers are able to provide the compassionate advocacy that children without a consistent adult in their lives need,” and said Catharine Reed, Vice President of Charitable Programs for the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.
VFC was founded in 1980 with a mission to mitigate the devastating effects of child abuse and long term foster care. VFC incorporated the then-emerging CASA volunteer model, which has proven successful and is now used throughout the United States. Since 2015, VFC is the only organization authorized by the court to provide CASAs for children in Riverside County. The need for such services increases each year. About 450 children are currently paired with CASAs in Riverside County, with 90 of those from the Coachella Valley.
“CASAs in the area are helping children overcome trauma and ensuring better home placements for youth in foster care in order to give them their best chance at a bright future,” said Jerry Upham, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates KESQ News Channel 3 and KPSP CBS Local 2.
This year’s Coachella Valley Spotlight grant recipients were all selected at the end of 2019, and each one is honored monthly by receiving grant funding and media exposure on News Channel 3’s platforms. Last year, 90 applications were received for 12 grants.
Through the Coachella Valley Spotlight partnership with the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and News Channel 3, Voices for Children was featured on News Channel 3 programming, in public service announcements and on kesq.com. For more information about Voices for Children visit www.speakupnow.org or call 951-472-9301.