“…Every kid, even kids in foster care, deserve a chance…”

By ELISA NAVARRO, Student Writer

“I love the saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. We become a better community when people volunteer and we all decide to make a difference,” said Maureen Lewis (1995), board member for the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program.

Through CASA, volunteers serve as court appointed special advocates for over 200,000 abused and neglected children nationwide. With the support of volunteers, children who don’t have a stable home and aren’t able to fight for themselves are given the opportunity to thrive in a safe and loving home.

In Fresno and Madera counties there are more than 2,500 children in the foster care system. At any given time, CASA serves 200 of these children through its volunteer base of 138 advocates. Fresno State alumni represent more than 25 of those advocates, dedicating their time to improving the lives of children in the foster care system.

Daniel Griffin, one of CASA’s founding board members and a volunteer for more than 20 years, says that his dream is to be able to double the amount of children they are currently helping.

These are the voices of some of our alumni who are making a difference in the lives of our area’s foster children.

John Lloyd (2004, Rehabilitation Counseling)

“I have seen the disruption and emotional struggles that both children and their parents face with being separated. [I want] to make a change in our kids life, get them the help they need through the system and encourage and support them emotionally.”

Steve Kelly (1977, Biology) & Vanessa Kelly (1977, Social Work)

We have influenced the direction the court was leaning with respect to who would provide long-term care for the children and also try to stay close on the education front and encourage the children.”

Norm Baird (1974, Criminology/Corrections)

“I’ve seen first-hand the impact that I can have by speaking a positive life-message into the lives of kids that have had very little of that in their lives. I believe that every kid, even kids in foster care, deserve a chance to succeed in life.

Lori Marler (1977, Plant Science)

“Helping to provide support for foster parents allows them to better provide physically and emotionally for the child.”

Cecilia Patino Funk (1983, Business Administration)

“I want to make sure these kids have access to the same services and opportunities that I would want for my own child. These kids need to know they are worthy and have a purpose on this earth. I also have found that this is my purpose, and volunteering as a CASA feeds my soul. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Cindy Jenkins (1985, Microbiology)

Every child deserves to know that they are loved and loveable, and that they have someone who cares about them and is looking out for them so they can have a voice. I know that I really have made a difference in the lives of the children I have advocated for, and I do feel the role CASA plays in the foster care system is so very important.”

Priscilla Craft (1973, Childhood Education)

“[Children] often grow up in a difficult environment surrounded by drugs, split families, multiple separated siblings, inadequate nourishment, and an environment that does not encourage education and hard work. These children need us!”

Nyxy Imes (2010, Criminology)

“Each child that I have advocated for listens to every word that is said to them or that they can hear. They are waiting for hope, security, and comfort. No matter what each one has been through they all have one thing in common…they want their family. Seeing great people adopt foster kids is what gives me hope and encourages me to continue advocating.”

Wilma Tom Hashimoto (1994, Education Administration & Supervision)

“As a board member, I feel I can make a significant contribution to systemic changes to assist foster youths. Kudos to the CASA advocates who spend time and make a positive difference in the lives of their foster youths. I am proud to serve as the chairperson of the Program Committee.”

Jennifer McDougal (2007, Speech Communication)

“I joined the board of directors because I felt called to help support children in foster care. It was important to me that I help impact the life of a child that was in a difficult situation through no fault of their own.”

Click here to learn more about CASA and how you can be an advocate.

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Related:
There was never a time when you were unwanted
You only need one person rooting for you