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Carlsbad man recognized for helping foster youth at Voices for Children

Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Tim Riley with a former foster youth.
Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Tim Riley with Josh, a youth who had formally lived in foster care hanging out in East Village in 2018.
(Evan Yamada Productions)

Nonprofit’s 2022 CASA of the Year says being present and listening are keys to succeeding as a Court Appointed Special Advocate

Tim Riley was sitting in the jury duty waiting room when a judge asked people in the room to consider volunteering as Court Appointed Special Advocates. The advocates speak up for children living in foster care and help them get the support they need. Riley was told there was great need for male volunteers to advocate for young boys in foster care.

That’s when Riley, a Carlsbad resident, began his volunteer work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) with the San Diego nonprofit Voices for Children. That was 10 years ago and since then he has helped six local boys, ages 13 to 17, get the educational, medical and emotional support they need.

“Tim Riley is a perfect example of how one caring and dependable adult can make all the difference in the life of a youth,” said Voices for Children’s chief program officer, Stephen Moore. “Tim builds trust with these youth not only through his words, but his everyday actions, and by modeling what a healthy relationship with a caring adult should look like.”

For his efforts, going above and beyond to help foster kids, Riley is being honored as the 2022 CASA of the Year by Voices for Children at the nonprofit’s annual gala, Starry Starry Night, set for Oct. 20 at The Rady Shell in Jacobs Park.

Riley is among 1,300 volunteers at Voices for Children trained and supported by the nonprofit to advocate for foster children in court, school and medical settings to make sure their needs are met. CASA volunteers typically become the most consistent, caring adult in the life of a child in foster care as they face court hearings, social workers, attorneys and often new homes. CASA volunteers and staff at Voices for Children, which was established in 1980, served more than 3,400 children last year in foster care throughout San Diego and Riverside counties.

Riley, a former health care marketing agency owner, is being recognized for his “unwavering dedication to youth in foster care in San Diego County. "

Riley and his wife are empty nesters with two adult children they adopted at birth, so when he heard about the need for CASA volunteers, it seemed like a perfect chance to help out.

“The secret to success for being a CASA is simply being present and listening. And once the youths realize you are a volunteer and aren’t getting paid to do this work, the light bulb goes off for them. They have been let down by the adults in their lives, and when they realize I’m in it for the long run, that’s when the real connection happens,” Riley said.

Riley met his first assigned youth, Sean, 13, when the teen was at a critical point in his life and his intellectual disability was being diagnosed and treated. After years of neglect, Sean was pulled from his home and entered the foster system where he was scared he would never have anyone to depend on.

“Working with all my youths has been rewarding. But my first youth, Sean, was truly the one that was the most life-altering,” Riley said.

Riley had worked closely with Sean to get him reunited with his grandmother over the course of several years. But when Sean turned 18 his grandmother died, and several months later Sean was on the verge of homelessness.

“Sean has an intellectual disability and I had maintained contact with his team of teachers and therapists, and with their guidance I was able to help Sean get lifelong services to provide him housing and occupational training. He is thriving as a now 23-year-old living in an adult group home, none of which would have happened without a village of unsung caring adults,” Riley said.

When the youths Riley helps age out of foster care and leave the foster care system, Riley continues to provide them with consistent support. He also encourages the youths to advocate for themselves and use their voices to help others.

“The process of teaching youths to self advocate starts when the youth and I go to court. To set the stage for what real life looks like, I would have the youth collect his thoughts and deliver his needs to the judge. Of course they were nervous and terrified to speak in court. But it not only helped them get the services they needed, it also created self-confidence to advocate for their own needs now as young adults,” Riley said.

“I had heard CASAs change lives but didn’t expect the profound positive change on my own,” he said. “I’m very humbled by this accolade, but the biggest honor is to see all six of my case youth grow into independent young men.”

For information about becoming a CASA volunteer, visit speakupnow.org.


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