SAN DIEGO — Over the past two decades, more than 600 children and teens living in foster care have found forever families through Adopt 8, which News 8 launched in November of 1999.
As we celebrate our 20-year milestone, we're evolving our mission to support even more foster youth through opportunities that include mentoring, volunteering, fostering and adoption.
News 8 and the County of San Diego are proud to introduce Fostering Hope which will be used to shine light on the many ways we can all help nurture and change the life of a foster child for a moment and a lifetime.
Volunteering to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate is one way to make a huge impact in a foster youth's life.
15-year-old Ashton says, "CASAs are amazing. They're so important."
He was matched with his CASA Robin Kilsby two years ago and says she's the most reliable adult in his life.
"She's like my go-to person," he said. "Whenever I'm feeling stressed or I need something, I can always call her."
He said having the consistency of a CASA is priceless.
"She's followed me everywhere," Ashton said. "Even when other people just kind of lose touch once I move, she's been there and I know that she'll be there."
The acronym CASA does not refer to the Spanish word for house, but Ashton says having his CASA Robin in his life is the closest thing he's had to having a home.
Robin describes Ashton or "Ash" as incredibly resilient.
"Ash is my hero," Robin said. "He totally completes my soul. It is amazing the amount of laughter we have every time we are together. This boy is wicked smart and has the most amazing sense of humor."
They have shared many laughs, but there have also been moments of sadness and pain through Ash's many placements in the foster care system. Ash says he couldn't have made it through the difficult times without Robin by his side.
Ash says is grateful to have a CASA, because many other foster youth don't. There's currently a waiting list to be matched with a CASA. Ash says he often hears foster youth commenting and asking, "Why don't I have one?" "Why don't I have one yet?" or "I wish I had one."
"It's a shame that children go without a CASA, just because, as Ash said, it does give a little consistency as they bounce around, which so many of them do," Robin said.
CASAs are trained through the nonprofit Voices for Children and help their assigned foster child navigate through the school and court systems.
Robin gets emotional when thinking about the difficult journey most foster children have to endure.
"Life is so hard for all of us, but then to have the baggage that they have to deal with, I can't imagine doing that alone," she said.
Robin said no matter where Ash's journey leads him in life, she will be there for him.
"He is never going to lose me," Robin said. "He may try, and I don't blame him, but, no, I want to be forever in his life."
To learn more about the requirements of becoming a CASA through Voices for Children, click here.
At any given time, there are about 2,100 children in out-of-home care and about 30 children waiting for a permanent adoptive placement in the County of San Diego, according to the Foster and Adoptive Resource Family Services.
To learn more about becoming a Foster or Adoptive Resource Family with the County of San Diego, please click here.
News 8 would like to thank local photographer Ron Manahan for taking some of the photos in this story.