CODY Now Offered in Yavapai County
Submitted by Eileen Bond, CASA of Yavapai County
The Court Orientation for Dependent Youth (CODY) program started in 2013 as a project of the CASA of Maricopa County program, with a grant from National CASA, to encourage youth to attend their court hearings and familiarize them with the dependency process - to let them know they have a voice and encourage them to use it. The program won the 2014 National CASA Promising Practices Award and continues to be active in Maricopa County.
In summary, the program brings dependent youth, age 12 and up, to court after-hours for a courtroom presentation that describes how the court moves through the dependency process, and the roles of each of the participants. The presenters are: a Judge, an Assistant Attorney General, a parent's attorney, a child's attorney, a child's GAL, a CASA, a DCS worker and a youth (foster graduate). After the presentation, a meal is available, and the youth and presenters mingle and talk informally. Each youth is given a binder with information about the court process and a card with their case number, the date and time of their next hearing, and the name, phone number and e-mail of their attorney, GAL and CASA.
A CASA of Yavapai County volunteer who attended the presentation at the 2014 National CASA Conference, and again at the Prevent Child Abuse Conference in Phoenix, brought the program to the attention of Tracy Sauer, Yavapai County Dependency Program Manager, and Judge Anna Young, Yavapai County Presiding Juvenile Judge, with the idea that it would be perfect for Yavapai County. The idea was heartily endorsed by Judge Young and Tracy Sauer and implementation went forward under the auspices of "Time for Teens", a CASA of Yavapai County program, dedicated to meeting the needs of older youth in foster care. The commitment of financial support for actual expenses (food and binders) came from the two Yavapai County CASA support organizations.
The first CODY session in Yavapai County took place at the Verde Valley Courthouse on December 1, 2014 with Judge Young, local attorneys, DCS workers, and a local CASA volunteer presenting. Arizona's Children Association brought a delightful young lady who is a foster alumni in the Independent Living program to explain why she still believes it is extremely important for dependent youth to attend their court hearings and exercise their own voice in the dependency. Seven dependent youth living in the Verde Valley attended and all rated the program as useful and leading to a better understanding of what everyone does and how their own involvement will benefit them. After the presentation, a wonderful meal was made available by the Verde Valley CASA Children's Foundation, and the youth and presenters were able to mingle and talk informally. Each youth was given a binder with information about the court process and a card with their case number, the date and time of their next hearing, and the name, phone number and e-mail of their attorney and/or GAL and CASA.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015 was the first CODY presentation at the Prescott Juvenile Justice Center, and it was fantastic. Binders were passed out and again, the Judge, local attorneys, a DCS worker, a CASA volunteer, and a foster alumni presented. Thirteen youth currently in the foster care system attended the program and they asked lots of questions. At the end of the program, the youth lined up with Judge Young, behind the bench, "to see how things look from this perspective." After the courtroom session, everyone enjoyed an extraordinary meal provided by Yavapai CASA for Kids Foundation. Looking around the room one could see that the dinner with everyone talking to one another was probably as important as the courtroom presentations. Watching the youth interact one on one with the attorneys, Judge Young, and the CASA volunteers demonstrated that our youth can learn that their voices actually do count!
Yavapai County is grateful to the CASA of Maricopa County office for mentoring us through this process. We encourage other county CASA programs to consider this valuable program and make it available to their dependent youth.
Yavapai County CASA plans to continue the CODY program with additional presentations later in the year.