New year’s resolutions typically focus on self-improvement: Lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more often. This year, why not resolve to do something even more lasting: Improve the life of a child who has suffered abuse and neglect?
As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), volunteers receive in-depth training to advocate in court and in the community for the needs and rights of children in foster care. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life and professions, and share one thing in common: They care about kids.
“Volunteers get to know the child they represent by talking with everyone in that child's life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys and social workers," said Kim Davis, executive director of the CASA of Santa Barbara County. "They use the information they gather to inform judges and others about the child’s needs and what will be the best permanent home for him or her.”
CASA volunteers complete 30 hours of training. Once they are assigned to a case, they can expect to spend an average of four to eight hours a month getting to know the child, gathering information, exploring resources to meet the child’s needs, representing the child in court and writing a report. Volunteers receive ongoing education and support from the CASA staff.
"Imagine that you are a young child born into a troubled family, uncertain about your future and you are suddenly placed into foster care — for your own good. Wouldn't you want to be the one person in this child's life that he or she could count on? Then become a CASA, I did," CASA volunteer Richard Rojas Sr. said.
For many of the children who CASA serves, their advocate is the only stable, supportive adult in their lives. The advocate’s sole responsibility is to protect the child’s rights and to help find them a safe and nurturing forever home.
Training for new volunteers begins Jan. 14 in Santa Maria and Jan. 16 in Lompoc. To learn more about how you can make a difference in the life of an abused or neglected child in your community, contact Tara Gross at 805.739.9102 x2595 or by email at email@example.com. The volunteer application is also available online by clicking here.
“Becoming an advocate for foster children will be the best resolution you can make for this year or any year,” Davis said.
— Tara Gross is an outreach coordinator for CASA of Santa Barbara County.