Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 5:57 pm | A Few Clouds 65º

Ernesto Paredes: Superheroes for Children Are Among Us

By Ernesto Paredes |

It’s been almost 10 years since transitioning from executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Santa Barbara County to my current position as executive director for Easy Lift Transportation. In those 10 years, many challenges continue for our community’s children being abused and neglected.

Ernesto Paredes
Ernesto Paredes

I recall when I accepted the position with CASA. I thought I had an idea of what child abuse was. I had no idea. Most people don’t, and hopefully will never have to truly understand the “hows” or the “whys.”

The word abuse can be so nebulous — not exactly sure what it really is. I used to think that a parent backslapping their child in the heat of the moment was what child abuse was about. I wish it were only that. I used to explain to my friends and colleagues to imagine their own vision of abuse — now triple it, quadruple it. Abuse can, and does, destroy children both physically and emotionally. Thank goodness there is CASA of Santa Barbara County.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month-long opportunity to stop and think of all the goodness we enjoy here on the South Coast — the beaches, mountains, parks, museums, what a gift.

There is no bigger gift or asset we have than all of our community volunteers. Our area provides ample opportunities for average citizens to train to become superheroes. Superheroes don’t always win every battle, but they do make a difference, and CASA volunteers are such heroes. It may sound like a paradox — Santa Barbara and abused children. We are known for our glitz and glamour, vacation getaways, wine tasting. While to some this may be true, our real treasure lies with the power of its people.

Nonprofit partners such as CALM, Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara, Casa Pacifica, the Family Care Network and the YMCA Youth and Family Services all play a pivotal role in helping save so many children and families from the destruction of unmet counseling needs, or going hungry, or the simple fact that so many go without a pillow, each and every night.

All of these organizations also have fantastic leaders advocating for “our” children. We must not truly rest until we know that we have done all we can on behalf of these little humans. One of the “things” we can do is to volunteer.

CASA volunteers are sworn in as “officers of the court.” What they say in their court reports matters and are requested by the judges. These volunteers often become the lone, consistent voice for the child. I tip my cap to CASA Executive Director Kim Colby-Davis. She follows a group of dedicated directors before her that lifted the torch to strengthen CASA’s message. This community has not only embraced this urgently needed agency, but it is a trusted resource of highly qualified community volunteers.

CASA, Colby-Davis and their board need your financial and volunteer support. You may never consciously know an abused/neglected child, but they are all around us. These beautiful children are worthy of so much more, but most importantly love.

Please find more information by clicking here. Being a CASA volunteer isn’t easy, but whoever said being a superhero was?

— Ernesto Paredes is executive director of Easy Lift Transportation.

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