Being a teen in the foster system can make youth feel as if they are invisible and often there are feelings of defeat. At the age of 12, the Juvenile Court recognizes that the youth are at a point where they can have some educated input on what is happening to them in their current situation. Unfortunately, youth are often too nervous to speak up for what they want or what they believe should happen inside the courtroom. Therefore, The Court Orientation for Dependent Youth, or CODY, was created.
CODY started as a pilot program in Maricopa County in 2007 under Judge Eileen Willett as part of the Extended Hours Court. The CODY Program and Extended Hours Court both lost funding in 2008 and were discontinued at that time. CODY was re-introduced by CASA of Maricopa County in 2013, after receiving a National CASA Grant. Currently CASA of Maricopa County hosts CODY through the VOCA Grant with support from their Support Council, Voices for CASA Children.
The Court Orientation for Dependent Youth is a court program that aims to empower dependent youth ages 12-17 to be self-advocates. It is focused on taking away the intimidation factor that the courtroom can have. At CODY, youth receive presentations from all the parties that are present at a dependency hearing. After the presenters, there is a brief Q&A with non-case specific questions. During these Q&As, the youth ask a wide range of questions and get helpful answers on who to contact about certain issues or what types of items they should address the courts about. Afterward, there is a pizza party with an additional presentation about resources that are available to them during their time in care and even after turning 18 years old. Those resources are provided by the Department of Education as well as through Fostering Advocates Arizona (FAAZ). During that resource presentation, the youth learn about what rights they have in the education system as well as grants and others supports they can apply for when pursuing higher education/trade schools.
CODY continues to serve youth ages 12-17 so that they can have a voice of their own and feel comfortable standing up for themselves in a system that may be entirely foreign to them.
Marshalle Manriquez, CASA Program Education Coordinator
Lisa Moore, CASA Program Development Coordinator