Breaking the Cycle
Voices for Children’s Juvenile Justice Program
In 2015, the California legislature recognized the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system and enacted new laws (Welfare and Institutions Code sections 101, 102, 103, and 109) permitting Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to offer advocacy and support to this population. Previously the law authorized CASAs to serve only youth in the juvenile dependency system
In 2017, thanks to new grant funding, Voices for Children launched its Juvenile Justice program, serving youth who have committed minor, nonviolent offenses and would greatly benefit from a CASA. With the counsel and support of their assigned VFC Advocacy Supervisors, CASAs develop case plans for these youth, connect them with local resources, write court reports, and appear at hearings to help judges understand and implement what is best for the youth.
In much the same way as they do for children in foster care, CASAs serve as advocates, including intervention with academic institutions, interpreter services, and help applying for community benefits such as housing services, relocation assistance, and employment programs. Through one-on-one advocacy, CASAs can help youth make better and more positive decisions and develop healthy relationships.
In the program’s early years, Juvenile Court Judges were the leading referral source for children in the delinquency system to receive CASAs. While judge referrals rates remain high, probation officers working directly with youth have become our highest referral source, demonstrating a recognition of the contributions CASAs are making in these young lives.