by LYDIA COBB | photo by Zeena Gregg Photography

A Voice For Children

Penny Ribnik and her husband moved here 26 years ago to raise their family. Penny retired in 2012 as a director and teacher at St. Bartholomew’s Preschool. Her husband is a retired analyst. They’re still in Poway with their two dogs, and now t­hree grown children and one grandson.

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity that would allow me to work with children on a long-term basis,” mentioned Penny Ribnik. “I found Voices for Children on a volunteer match site and the rest is history.” Voices for Children was founded in 1980. The private, nonprofit organization recruits, trains, and supervises court-appointed special advocates, called CASAs, who advocate for the rights and wellbeing of foster children in San Diego.

volunteer02As a CASA volunteer, Penny acts as a fact-finder for judges who preside over foster children’s cases. She visits with her case child (or siblings) at least monthly to gather information from the child, caregivers, family members, court documents, social workers, healthcare providers, and school officials. A CASA, like Penny, is often the only consistent adult presence in a foster child’s life.

“There is no ‘perfect family’ and it can be difficult to weigh all the factors in a case and decide on a recommendation,” added Penny. “However, my supervisor is always there to discuss my cases with me and to offer advice. It is extremely rewarding to see a foster child be reunited with his or her family, or to see a child who has been in the foster care system for most of his or her life find a forever family.” Volunteers are needed. Many foster children do not yet have an advocate. Upcoming information sessions and other ways to help Voices of Children can be found on www.speakupnow.org.

With children still in focus, Penny and two friends, also retired educators, run a preschool program at San Diego Botanic Garden once a month. Penny likes to crochet, craft, search for treasures in the thrift shops along Poway Road, and enjoy local cuisine with her husband. She’s learning new things. She took a class on mindfulness meditation at Pomerado Hospital. Her love for children inspires Penny to continue giving back, even as she’s learning to sew to make tiny clothes for her new grandson.


Meet Penny

Name: Penny Ribnik
Community: Poway
Volunteer: Voices for Children
Profession: Retired preschool director and teacher
Family: Husband, three grown children, one grandson, two dogs
Hobbies: Crochet, crafts, sewing


Group: Voices for Children
Purpose: To provide CASAs for every foster child in San Diego County
Upcoming Event: The Real Word, a panel of four young speakers sharing their stories with the community on April 28 and May 27. Learn more and register for the free, open event at www.speakupnow.org/real-word.
Website: www.speakupnow.org