In 2022, CASA Will was assigned to his first case child, Austin, who came into care after fleeing his home and walking several miles to a friend’s home. CASA Will has been by Austin’s side right from the start, helping him move from a temporary shelter for children in need to his new placement at a residential high school campus for foster youth. CASA Will and Austin quickly bonded over movies, boba tea, and art. With CASA Will’s support, Austin quickly settled into his new living environment, making friends and excelling in his academic coursework. CASA Will even took on the role of co-educational rights holder for Austin as the school year began.
In the spring, at a grade-level meeting, Austin expressed interest in attending school at an off-site high school the following year. He explained that he was not feeling challenged in his current coursework and was hoping to attend a school that offers accelerated courses and programs. After attending a child and family team (CFT) meeting, CASA Will began researching off-site educational opportunities that would better suit Austin’s needs, including schools with performing arts programs, as Austin’s dream is to finish school, move to South Korea and go through training to become a K-pop star.
CASA Will identified a local arts & sciences high school focusing on competency-based learning and advanced college and career readiness. Austin applied to the school and was accepted, but getting accepted was just the first step. Austin and CASA Will had to work on getting approval to attend the offsite school and facilitate transportation, as there is no school bus route between his group home and the offsite high school. CASA Will attended multiple meetings with the group home staff to advocate for Austin to be permitted to attend the offsite school. He has researched alternative means of transportation, spoken with all of the professionals involved in Austin’s life regarding this decision, and continued to advocate that this school would be in Austin’s best interest.
In August 2023, Austin’s request to attend the offsite school was denied. Nonetheless, he was undeterred, telling CASA Will that he would attend this school no matter what it took. CASA Will then worked with Austin’s attorney, who quickly requested that the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program (SDVLP) be assigned to Austin’s case and set a special hearing to review the matter. A special hearing was held, and the Court ruled in favor of Austin attending the offsite school. Thanks to CASA Will’s advocacy and Austin’s determination, he now attends a school that challenges him and supports his dream.
Name: William J.
County: San Diego
Occupation: Lecturer at UC San Diego
Became a CASA in: 2022
Advice to a new CASA: “Our case youth often know better than we do what kind of advocacy they need, and we can all learn a lot from listening to them and helping them achieve their goals.”
You, too, can make a difference in the life of a youth in foster care. Learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer.
*Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality