Hearts of Yolo: Jacqueline Rutheiser

Friday, Jan 12, 2018

JacquelineJacqueline Rutheiser has a heart for foster children and non-minor dependents. She is not only a CASA volunteer but professionally, she is a senior policy advocate for the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, an organization that advocates for policies to help and protect foster children. In fact, her organization was responsible for co-sponsoring AB 12, legislation that extends dependency and thus resources for foster children from 18 to 21 years of age. “Non-minor dependents have unique challenges. Since they are 18, the goal shifts from reunification to lifelong permanent connections, including with family, and independence, and there are many challenges to achieving independence when a child comes from a stable home, let alone foster care.”

Jacqueline first heard about Yolo County CASA in the local newspaper when she moved to Davis from Marin County in 1999 to work in California’s Capitol. “I went through the training and it impacted me in a way I never forgot. Shortly after, I had my second child and was working full-time so I didn’t feel I had the amount of time I needed to do it. However, when my oldest child left for college, I knew it was the right time to take on a case.”

While she had originally envisioned working with the courts and championing for reunification, guardianship or adoption on behalf of a foster child, her case ended up being a non-minor dependent. “It’s exciting that my case ended up how it did. I literally saw legislation that I worked on come to fruition through my CASA volunteer work.”

When Jacqueline first started meeting with her CASA youth, she remembers her apprehension, “It was worse than fear of the unknown. Not only was I worried about what it would be like but I was also worried it could be a forced or awkward relationship.” While it took time to get to know one another in the beginning, it ended up being anything but. “My CASA youth and I have a great relationship and have worked together on her transition to adulthood while still being in foster care. My CASA youth just moved into an apartment and is doing very well. It has been wonderful to see her grow and help guide her.”

Jacqueline also reflects on the importance of foster parents. “My CASA youth’s foster parents are wonderful. She has a great relationship with them. Even though my CASA youth now lives in her own apartment, she spent Christmas with them. To me, this drives home the importance of foster parenting, CASA volunteers, and other child service organizations. If it weren’t for all of these people and organizations, foster children could literally have no one but themselves. In times of celebrations, holidays and unfortunate occurrences, we all need family and lifelong friends.”

To help ensure that her CASA youth always has someone, Jacqueline plans to stay in touch indefinitely, “Even though our formal CASA relationship will end in a couple of years, I plan to say in touch as a mentor and friend for as long as she wants me to be.”

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