In September, Del Mar resident Bonnie Grossman received the “2023 CASA Volunteer of the Year Award” from Voices for Children (VFA), recognizing her seven years of dedication to four children living in foster care. Annually, VFC selects one of their 1,500 Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) for this award, in recognition of exceptional service.
Bonnie, a landscape architect, is a long-time Del Mar resident. She provided strong leadership to the city’s Arts Advisory Committee as its chair for AAC’s first six years (2018-2023). She lives with cystic fibrosis, and in 2015, was given a second chance at life through a double lung transplant and heart surgery. Bonnie emerged from this difficult surgery with a deep sense of gratitude and purpose. She vowed to pay it forward by dedicating herself to children in need. When she learned about CASAs, she stepped up to the challenge, and after completing 35 hours of training, was assigned to her first youth. VFC is the organization designated by San Diego Superior Court to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to support children in foster care. Each CASA’s individualized advocacy helps judges make informed decisions for children’s futures.
Perhaps the most important role of a CASA is to be a consistent presence in a child’s life – the one person always there to listen, to encourage, to be their “voice” in court. Children in foster care have often experienced abuse and neglect, and foster placement compounds their challenges with court hearings, social workers, attorneys, new homes, new schools. Since 2020, Bonnie has been a guiding light for “Jacob” (name changed for confidentiality), a then-15-year-old who has been in foster care since age seven. When she first met him, she knew he was brilliant, but struggling. Bonnie has worked to build Jacob’s confidence and motivate him academically, ensuring he attended a school that nurtured his interest in the sciences. She helped him get his first internship with a biotech company. With Bonnie by his side, Jacob is becoming an articulate young man who can advocate for himself; his future looks bright.
In acknowledging the award, Bonnie said, “Being a CASA and working with my youth is replacing a hole in my heart and filling a gap in my life. This recognition humbles me, but the biggest honor is watching Jacob grow into a resilient young man and helping him have a better life.”
Jessica Muñoz, VFC President/CEO, praised Bonnie as “is a perfect example of how a CASA can be the glue between a youth and school, court, social workers, and all the agencies involved.” Bonnie hopes that others in Del Mar will consider becoming a CASA – there are many children waiting for help, and it only takes 10-15 hours a month to be a volunteer advocate. For more information: www.speakupnow.org.
Editors Note: Anne Farrell has served as chief fundraiser for Voices for Children (2010-2017) and then the California CASA Association.