Sunday, September 20, 2020
Home News CASA: Someone to Call ‘Home’

CASA: Someone to Call ‘Home’

By Zamná Avila, Assistant Editor

Lisa Slayton had a rough start at life.

Her mother was paranoid-schizophrenic and was unable to take care of her. The identity of her biological father and his whereabouts is unknown. Her maternal grandmother took care of her, but when Slayton was 10, her grandmother died.

In total, Slayton has lived in eight foster homes and about five group homes. She said some of her experiences were positive, but others were not.

“Some foster homes…take you in as their own, but some…have kids and you can feel the difference,” Slayton said. “And, in group homes, some of the staff they come in just because it’s their job. They really don’t care about the situations of the kids in the system. It’s like a paycheck to them.”

She was alone. Ironically, that is, until she became a ward of the court at the age of 14. That’s when she met Sam Herod.

Someone to Call “CASA”

CASA Sam Herod
Sam Herod received the G.F. Bettineski Child Advocate of the Year Award for his service to foster children in Los Angeles County

“When I first met him, he came on very strong,” Slayton remembers. “I was blowing him away. I didn’t want him around. My grandma had just passed. I didn’t want to be around nobody. I was like, ‘Why is this person coming into my life? Why is he so interested and wants to know so much about me?’ But he kept dropping off clothes and food. Until one day, I finally opened up.”

Herod is part of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program, also known as a CASA. The primary source of National CASA Association’s funding is a community funded organization. Operating funds come from donations and grants from private and government organizations.

Judges appoint difficult cases to CASA volunteers so they can advocate for abused and neglected children to make sure they don’t get lost in the system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes.

“It’s kind of like they’re a godfather or a godmother,” said Dilys Garcia, the executive director of CASA Los Angeles. “They’re acting like a surrogate parent in some matters that normally a parent would take care of.”

Herod agrees.

“My first job is making sure they get everything that’s coming to them through the court system,” said Herod, 60, who has a 41-year-old son, a 35-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old granddaughter of his own. “My second job is to form a relationship where they can trust me, and sometimes, that trust takes me down that road where they look at me as the father they never had.”

Long Beach resident Maureen Wharton, another CASA volunteer, agrees. She’s been a volunteer for about 10 years. Wharton describes her work as an investigation in which the volunteer tries to learn as much as possible about the child and the people who surround that child.

Wharton has handled some of the toughest cases, including the case of 14-year-old child who ended up being trafficked for four months after she ran away from her foster home. She was able to get mental health help and an attorney. She also got her enrolled in a residential treatment school paid for by the Long Beach Unified School District.

“It’s been a very complicated, long case,” Wharton said. “If I wasn’t on the case — I’m not giving myself kudos; I was an extra person on the case — she might not have ever gone to a residential school or succeeded to go to high school and get her diploma.”

Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe,  permanent home.

“It’s kind of a big responsibility for a volunteer, but it’s such a rewarding thing,” Wharton said.

Herod is a retired audio visual specialist from Los Angeles. He started volunteering with CASA in 2000. Growing up around several foster children in his neighborhood during the 60s inspired him to become a volunteer. It’s also why he had the patience to keep coming back to Slayton.

“Lisa was a very special case,” Herod said. “She had a lot of letdowns from providers that promised her a lot of stuff and didn’t come through…. I love this population of kids because they’re so resilient… They have their faults, like most kids. But when they get knocked down they get up really quick.”

If you are wondering what the difference between a CASA volunteer and social worker, Slayton makes it simple.

“The CASA is only really for you,” she said. “It’s somebody you know you can just call and will always answer…. CASAs can have two to three mentees at a time. They can really focus and really get to know you.”

Social workers often have big caseloads. While they do check on children in their caseloads, they often are unable to provide the emotional support that a CASA volunteer provides.

“The system is very overburdened,” Garcia said. “Social workers and attorneys have very high caseloads, as do judges….[CASA volunteers] work with the social worker and the attorney and the judge… They’re part of that group, but they become an extra head, an extra heart, an extra set of eyes and ears.”

Slayton said Herod has helped her find the best school, individual educational plans, self-maintenance, therapy and job preparation.

“[Sam] is the only person who has been consistent in my life since I was 14,” Slayton said. “I’m now 20 and he’s still there for me. He always wants the best for me.”

Today, Slayton is working to get herself and her 3-month old son into transitional housing. Her case will be closed when she turns 21, but she plans to continue school, where she is studying child family education. Her goal is to own a daycare for infants or perhaps study to become a child therapist.

She said Herod will forever be part of her life.

“I really didn’t have a family,” she said. “I don’t know if I have any relatives. If Sam never came… I don’t know who would be in my life or where I would be.”

Garcia said Long Beach has a great need for CASAs, considering the number of foster youth in the community.

“There are only six CASA volunteers in Long Beach… In the Long Beach Unified School District alone there are 840 foster youth,” Garcia said. “That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 30,000 foster children in all of Los Angeles County, of which our volunteers also help as many as possible.”

Slayton hopes her story will inspire others to volunteer.

“There are a lot of us… who really don’t have anybody to talk to or depend on,” Slayton said. “If people volunteer and want to open up and come work with us, come hear our story and hear us out. We may change your life and you can change our life. You can… be that one person. Sam changed my life.”

CASA is hosting a volunteer information session from 6 to 7:15 p.m. June 29 at Total Wine in Long Beach. RSVP.
Details: (323) 859-2888; volunteer@casala.org
Venue: Total Wine Long Beach, Long Beach Towne Center, 7400 Carson Blvd., Long Beach

 

 

 

3 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular

Millionaires versus Markets: Big Money Battles Prop. 15

The corporate owner of Terranea Resort has spent $250,000 to defeat Proposition 15, while Carson’s largest landowner, the Watson Land Corp., has...

Campaigning in a Different World

Top District 7 vote-getters in school board race look to distinguish themselves in new political environment The District 7...

Fog In the Media

Even the weather girl should know which way the wind blows Sitting, as I do most early mornings, drinking...

Social Media Spreads Fear on Anti-fascism Caravan

For four years, thousands of people descended upon San Pedro to see the latest in advanced military vessels, vehicles and weapons along...

Recent Comments

The Anti-fascists are the Fascists on The Truth About Antifa
Scott Wallace on The Truth About Antifa
David C Lizarraga on Episode – San Pedro: The Podcast
Randomly Lengthly Walt on Republicans’ Revolt
Antifa are the real fascists on The Truth About Antifa
Artemis Gordon on The Truth About Antifa
Vicky Palesa Adam on Lung Health Tips for COVID-19
J.S on Icarus Falls
Ghost from your past! on Icarus Falls
Lisa Bennett on The Truth About Antifa
Dave on Icarus Falls
Kevin on Icarus Falls
DAVID J LEE on Think: George Floyd
M Mackey on Think: George Floyd
Michael S. Motta on Think: George Floyd
Thomas "HOUSE" Houchens on Think: George Floyd
Eliath Mena on Think: George Floyd
Deidre Powell on Think: George Floyd
Marcia Ladymgirl on Think: George Floyd
Jennifer L on Think: George Floyd
Carlos Fisher on Think: George Floyd
Jose "cheMMa" Rodriguz on Think: George Floyd
Aniza Thomas on Think: George Floyd
David Seay on Think: George Floyd
Marc LJ on Think: George Floyd
andre edwards on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on From Pop Culture to Cop Culture
Sharon Hislop on Think: George Floyd
Fetteroff on Think: George Floyd
Raul Acevedo Jr. on Think: George Floyd
Mel Grayson on Think: George Floyd
Terelle Jerricks on A Virtual World of Events 
Alice r. Knoop on Lung Health Tips for COVID-19
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Joshua E Chambers on Take me to Sardine
Chad Dorchester on Take me to Sardine
Terelle Jerricks on Change Won’t Be Televised
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Melina Paris on Take me to Sardine
Bob Kohler on About
Judie M Barker on About
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Kim Kaufman on Staff
Vivian Morales on From War to Lowrider
Robin Doyno on Staff
Publisher on About
Joe Stackhouse on Advertise
Marshariki Haylock on A Stabbing in San Pedro
CARRIE MENDOZA on A Stabbing in San Pedro
Martin Palmiere EMC(SW) ret. on Trouble on the Iowa
Martin A.Palmiere EMC(SW) USN(ret.) on Trouble on the Iowa
John H Winkler on Frequently Asked Questions
J. McVey on Staff
Malou Mariano on Tampering and Collusion
Terrell Williams on The New Gap Band Fills The Gap
Alton C . Thompson, Ph. D. on About
Harold Ericsson on Letters to the Editor
Hillbinkel on Trouble on the Iowa
Ian Gordon on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
larry lebedin on KKJZ Leaves CSULB Campus
Joseph Bianco on Frequently Asked Questions
Deborah Steed on Zerby Family Finds Solace
Don Griffin on Rosenberg
Pete on About
Anne Marie Knudsen on Clem Pennington is the Whole Package
Terelle Jerricks on About
Lyn Jensen on Go Retro with Records
Steven R. Heldt on Fig Trees Are Like Democracies
Joanne Sims on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Dave Borst-Smith on Peacocks, Paseo, Politics
Charles Traupmann on The Buscaino Report:
james P. Allen on Across the Great Divide
Allyson Vought on Across the Great Divide
PBinLostAngeles on RL NEWS Roundups: June 14, 2016
davehall on Voter Guide
Chris formica Gringos Tacos on Food Truck Blues
Random Lengths News on Iowa Fever
Tinisha Rodrique on IMG_1761
polos fred perry on Less Than a Side Show
cheap soccer jersey on Less Than a Side Show
le mahjong gratuit on The Surrealness of Knives and Breast
Harry and the Gang on Sherlock Holmes at the LB Playhouse
neufert architect s data pdf on IMG_1761
sewing machine reviews on Annie at the Warner Grand