Hearts of Yolo: Griselda Estrada

Thursday, Jan 18, 2018

A leaf, parking pass, and journal entry mark a break through moment for Griselda Estrada and her CASA youth. “I drove her to Auburn so that we could hike together. At that point, I think she knew I was ‘all in.’ I mean, you don’t drive someone up to Auburn and go on a long hike with them if you don’t want to be invested in a relationship with them. We talked about future goals and life in general. It was a really great day.”

Griselda heard about Yolo County CASA when a staff member came and talked about the program in one of her college classes at UC Davis. When she graduated and began work in accounting, she knew the time was right to become a volunteer. “Before I graduated I was working and going to school. With the school component finished, I knew I had the time I wanted to invest in being a CASA volunteer.”

Originally Griselda wanted to serve a young boy because she thought that segment of foster children might be most in need of a role model, but after talking to her boss, who used to be a juvenile court judge in Sacramento, she changed her mind. “My boss explained to me that teenage girls in foster care are in a high risk category for pregnancy. If an unplanned pregnancy happens, two children are in the system. Thinking about that really influenced me and I chose a 15 year old girl for my case. We’ve been together two years now.”

Griselda highlights the importance of a CASA volunteer at both an advocacy and relational level. When Griselda’s CASA youth was first assigned to her, her documents had yet to be transferred. “I spent hours on the phone with the attorney to make sure her birth certificate and other documents followed her. It seems like a basic thing that should just happen, but I think I sped up the process by several months through my persistence.” She has also advocated for her CASA youth’s best interests in court. “Reunification is not an option for her. I can’t imagine. We all need a strong adult figure to count on.”

Speaking of a strong adult figure, the journal that Griselda took on the hike has been very significant in her relationship with her CASA youth. “When we get together we write goals in it. She is now 18 and just got a job, which was one of her big goals. She also wants to go to college someday. When she does, she wants me to move her in. So that’s written in the journal too. I think when you write something down, you automatically get an accountability boost and it has become a tool for her as she navigates life as an eighteen year old.”

Griselda and her CASA youth plan to remain in touch even after their formal case ends. “She knows I will always be there for her. I truly can’t imagine her ever not being part of my life. That is the magic of being a CASA volunteer. I echo the sentiments of other volunteers that have said it starts out being about what you can give back and then you realize you get a lot in return, too.”

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