I am one of two South Lake Tahoe residents who currently serve on the Board of Directors of CASA El Dorado and have the great honor of having just been elected to serve as the president of the board. If you have followed this space you have gained some perspective on the great work our volunteers do. They make a tremendous difference in the lives of children in our community who have had the misfortune of being removed from their homes and placed in foster care because of abuse or neglect.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteer advocates. They are the heart and soul of CASA. I also want to take this opportunity to tell you a little about the economics of CASA.
CASA El Dorado currently serves more than 350 children per year, about 40 percent of whom are in South Lake Tahoe. That is remarkable. We serve more kids than are served in Sacramento County, which is eight times our size. We serve these kids with a budget that is 40 percent less than the state average per child served. We are efficient and effective.
Still, there are currently 57 children in El Dorado County who sit on a wait list because we don’t have the funding to pay for the volunteer training and oversight needed to serve all of them. Twenty-one of these kids are in Lake Tahoe.
This is a personal tragedy for the kids. Research shows that about half the kids who remain in foster care through the age of 18 are homeless within two years after they age out of the system. They suffer much higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, violent crimes, teenage pregnancy, incarceration and eventually abuse or neglect of their own children.
It also creates a financial burden for our community. Keeping a child in foster care costs the county at least $3,000 a year, often several times that number.
Kids who have CASA advocates assisting and guiding them are half as likely to end up in long-term foster care. The kids we serve are half as likely to suffer the terrible long-term effects of being without a stable, loving, permanent home and we as a community are half as likely to bear the long-term costs of keeping these kids in the foster care system.
Now comes the important part of this message. Our goal is to serve 100 percent of the kids who need our help, but we cannot do it without your help. Donations from the local community account for more than 80 percent of CASA’s budget.
To make a donation, visit casaeldorado.org or send your donation directly to CASA El Dorado, 1354 Johnson Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. It is the right thing to do for the kids and the smart thing to do for the community.
— Tom Makris is the president of the CASA El Dorado Board of Directors.