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CASA Volunteers and Their Role in Building Resiliency in Trauma Impacted Youth

As part of our ongoing service learning opportunities for CASA volunteers, CASA DC will be holding a training on the impact of trauma on children. CASA volunteers regularly work with youth who have experienced trauma and can help to build resilience in these children. This week we’ll be diving into the effects of childhood trauma and how CASA volunteers are uniquely trained to support such youth.



One of the many obstacles foster youth face is the presence of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). An estimated 90% of youth in foster care have been exposed to trauma, including exposure to violence and physical and sexual assault. Adverse Childhood Experiences can have long-term consequences in a youth’s life through adulthood, increasing risk of health problems (such as heart disease), high risk behaviors (including drug use), and lowered academic and professional achievement. Brain development can also be impacted when youth experience early childhood trauma. Young children experiencing trauma are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral dysregulation, memory, and processing. This effects a youth’s success in education, building life skills, and in our youth’s overall well-being. 


The CASA model is designed to support youth who have experienced such trauma. The presence of a supportive adult relationship can serve as a significant protective factor against the negative consequences of ACES and childhood trauma, along with active skill building. CASAs can serve as this supportive adult for youth, and work to help them build resiliency and life skills. CASA volunteers provide support to youth in 4 domains: Permanency, Education, Well-Being, and Life Skills - targeting areas of particular need for youth who have experienced ACES. 


In a 30 hour intensive training, CASAs are taught how to support youth who have experienced ACES. CASAs learn about resiliency factors to guard against the impact of trauma, and how they can work with their youth to build these. These resiliency factors are:


Competence - gaining mastery over topics, learning skills, improving in school

Confidence - building self-confidence

Connection - helping connect to community, extra-curriculars, peers, family members

Character - knowing one’s self, developing interests & hobbies, being a positive role model

Contribution - connecting to community service, giving back

Coping - identifying & developing alternative coping mechanisms like yoga, writing, sports; advocating for therapy

Control - helping youth to self-advocate, goal-setting


Children who have experienced trauma who have a CASA are more likely to find a safe, permanent home, succeed in school and are less likely to re-enter the foster care system. Based on the time spent with the youth and through gathering information from various members of the team (teachers, social workers, etc.), CASA volunteers can make informed recommendations to the court. Along with empowering the youth, CASAs also encourage services that strengthen the parents’ relationship with the children whenever possible.


If you are interested in learning more about how you can impact the life of a local foster child who has experienced trauma, please visit our Volunteer page or contact volunteer@casadc.org. If you are a CASA volunteer interested in attending the In-Service trauma training on November 14th, please email Amada Crespin at acrespin@casadc.org.

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