Monday, Apr 11, 2016
What Does Child Advocates Have in Common with Reducing Paper?
The answer is time. Paper takes a lot of time. For every child who needs a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), the mountain of paperwork to go through can take as much as five weeks! Why? The printed court records and reports needed for each child must be sent from the court to the Child Advocates office.
While the child waits.
Then information from the paper records has to be entered into Child Advocates’ database by a team of volunteers and staff members. We’re talking about hundreds of pages of materials.
While the child waits.
Next, a CASA volunteer must drive to the Child Advocates office to read and review the papers since they can’t be taken out of our office. Making arrangements of these sorts can also take weeks.
And still, the child waits.
And what is the child waiting for? A lifeline. That’s what a CASA is. When children are removed from the care of their parents, it’s often due to abuse and neglect. Imagine being removed from everything you know and placed in an environment that’s alien to you. You know no one, you’re living in a strange home, you’re in a different school, and you have to go to court where you hear strange people say bad things about your parents. Nothing is familiar or comforting to you.
All of this is happening while a child waits for that lifeline – a CASA volunteer who provides stability and hope for a child who has experienced abuse and neglect.
We cannot continue to have children wait weeks for that lifeline. We know there’s a better way. By going paperless and automating the process of accessing the court records through an encrypted system, we can improve the process so children in the Santa Clara County dependency system won’t have to wait so long for a CASA.
Thanks to a $45,000 grant from 100 Women Charitable Foundation, Child Advocates of Silicon Valley will design and implement a Data Management System to provide more effective and efficient case management for our advocate children and CASA volunteers. Not only does this mean that each child won’t have to wait so long, but more children can be matched with CASAs.
Child Advocates is determined to be the first CASA organization to go entirely digital, paving the way for so many more to follow.
Because many things can wait, but a child cannot.
Karen Scussel is Executive Director of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley.