Voices for Children Honors
Del Mar Resident, Bonnie Grossman as 2023 CASA Volunteer of the Year
Bonnie has advocated for four children living in foster care over the past seven years
(September 5, 2023) SAN DIEGO – Founded in 1980, Voices for Children transforms the lives of children in foster care by providing them with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs). These volunteers – trained and supported by Voices for Children – advocate for youth in court, school, medical settings, and more to ensure their needs are met. Over time, a CASA often becomes the most consistent adult in the life of a child in foster care. Each year, the organization honors one special volunteer who has gone above and beyond in advocating for foster care youth. The Voices for Children 2023 San Diego CASA of the Year is Del Mar resident Bonnie Grossman.
Bonnie, by profession, is a local landscape architect with many years of experience in the arts, most recently as the Del Mar Arts Advisory Committee Chair. She lives with cystic fibrosis (CF) and was given a second chance at life through a double lung transplant and heart surgery in 2015. Against the odds, Bonnie survived this difficult surgery and emerged with a sense of gratitude and purpose. She vowed to pay it forward by dedicating her life to children in need. Though she is still immunocompromised and takes caution with her health, Bonnie doesn’t let it hold her back. In speaking with her college roommate, a CASA in Los Angeles, Bonnie learned about the role of a CASA in supporting a child who had no say in the circumstances that brought them into foster care. She understood that a judge appoints a CASA to get involved in a child’s life, spend time with them, and report to the court about the child’s progress and needs. This individualized advocacy helps judges make the most informed decisions for children’s futures.
The more she learned, the more she saw herself becoming a CASA and using the skills she gained as a healthcare self-advocate to speak up for a child in foster care and advocate for their best interests. As a patient with cystic fibrosis, she could use her experience to communicate with a spectrum of professionals, keep diligent records, tackle challenges through negotiation and creativity, and proactively research information to help a child in foster care. After her post-transplant recovery, she contacted Voices for Children. She attended an information session, submitted her application, completed 35 hours of “Advocate University” training, and was assigned to her first youth.
CASA Bonnie has been a fierce champion for children in foster care for seven years, having advocated for four children. This includes her current case youth, who met CASA Bonnie at the height of the pandemic in 2020. The advocacy of CASA volunteers is vital to promoting the health and safety of children and youth in foster care. Children in foster care have often experienced abuse and neglect. Foster care placement compounds their already challenging circumstances with court hearings, social workers, attorneys, new homes, and new schools. A CASA like Bonnie can, over time, become a consistent presence in a child’s life and the one person who is always there to listen. She puts so much effort into the role of a CASA; she is patient, tenacious, empathetic, kind, and moves mountains for her assigned youth.
Since 2020, Bonnie has been a guiding light for a then-15-year-old youth who has been in foster care since he was seven. When she first met him, she knew he was brilliant and had a deep soul. Many CASAs hold educational rights for their assigned child, which means they serve as the point-person for the youth’s academic needs. CASA Bonnie has worked tirelessly to build his confidence and motivate him academically by taking on his educational rights and ensuring he attended a school that challenged and nurtured his interest in the sciences. She even supported him in acquiring his first internship with a biotech company. With Bonnie by his side, he is becoming an articulate young man who can advocate for himself.
“Being a CASA and working with my youth is replacing a hole in my heart and filling in a rewarding gap in my life,” said Bonnie. “This recognition humbles me, but the biggest honor is watching him grow into a resilient young man and helping him have a better life.”
“Bonnie Grossman is a perfect example of how a CASA can be the glue between the youth and school, the court, the social worker, and all the agencies involved,” said Voices for Children’s President & CEO Jessica Muñoz, Esq., MFS. “Bonnie knows what it means to advocate for somebody, being supportive, strong, and tender in helping our community’s most vulnerable populations — children in foster care — for the last seven years. We are grateful for her commitment to Voices for Children and her dedication to the youth we serve.”
Bonnie will be honored at Voices for Children’s annual Starry Starry Night gala at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park on Thursday, September 28, 2023.
Learn more about Voices for Children at speakupnow.org