CASA volunteers advocate for 234,000 children each year. But that is fewer than half of the children experiencing foster care each year. National CASA works with partner organizations and provides resources to programs to increase awareness of and support for the CASA cause.
I am for the child™ Campaign in Florida Generates Awareness, Funding and Policy Shifts
The CASA volunteer program in Florida (called guardian ad litem, or GAL) reaped amazing benefits when the statewide organization and its local programs united to embrace the I am for the child™ campaign.
I am for the child™ is a massive print, web and social media effort launched by the National CASA Association in 2011 to communicate the impact of the CASA mission. National CASA provided materials and support for the campaign to CASA and GAL programs across the nation.
Today in Florida, barely two years after I am for the child™ started, 70 percent of foster children have a guardian ad litem, with a goal of reaching 100 percent by 2018. And although GAL, a state government agency in Florida, is operating on a 15 percent smaller budget than in 2007, its volunteer base is now 60 percent larger with a force of 9,000-plus – and growing. How is this possible?
"I am for the child™ marketing did that," says Alan Abramowitz, state director for GAL. "Before, all our local GAL programs in Florida had been doing their own thing. But this campaign was a way we could present ourselves, statewide and united, with a great impact. We immediately adopted it, and everything we do contains the messaging."
With $10,000 and help from a nonprofit organization, Alan and his team were able to wrangle $80,000 worth of well-timed television spots from the cable association in Florida to put the word out statewide about I am for the child™.
Alan, GAL staff and volunteers also visit Rotary, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce and other local groups, and he meets with legislators to share the I am for the child™ video. In fact, after seeing the video, Florida lawmakers encouraged Alan to ask for more state funding for GAL.
The increased awareness among policymakers and the general public also resulted in a remarkable win in the legislature – the adoption of a bill that allows foster parents to make immediate decisions about school, sports and social activities for their foster children.
"The kids call it the Let Kids Be Kids Bill, and Florida is only the second state in the country to allow caregivers to make real-time decisions on things like sleepovers and sports activities for their foster kids – just like they can for their biological children," Alan says proudly.
"National CASA had an important role in our success," he adds. "We could never have been able to afford to do this on our own. I am for the child™ has been a homerun for Florida."