Judge Arthur Garcia, in the middle of the center third row, and CASA volunteers in Santa Maria show off their “I am for the child” license plate holders. (CASA of Santa Barbara County photo)

CASA of Santa Barbara County became an independent nonprofit organization in June 1995. Since then, nearly 1,000 CASA volunteers have served more than 1,850 abused and neglected children throughout Santa Barbara County.

CASA volunteers help children every day by advocating for their best interests in court and in the community. CASA’s stand by children in foster care until they find safe, permanent homes. Through the efforts of dedicated volunteers, children have had a voice in court and now live with the hope of a life free from abuse and neglect.

Today CASA of Santa Barbara County continues to build on the efforts of the volunteers and board members who founded the organization, as well as donors who have supported CASA for the past 20 years. Starting from a humble beginning of a staff of one working with 13 volunteers, CASA has grown into a team of 13 dedicated staff supporting 284 volunteers. With the fiscal year ending June 30, CASA served 438 abused and neglected children.

“This could never happen without the commitment of time from our volunteers, and donations from individuals and foundations in our community,” CASA Executive Director Kim Colby Davis said.

Although CASA has grown tremendously, they currently serve only 75 percent of the abused and neglected children in Santa Barbara County who come into care. That means many more children are waiting for a volunteer to be appointed to their case.

“It has been an amazing 20 years, but our work is not done,” Davis said. “Our vision is to have a volunteer for every abused and neglected child and to serve those children as long as they are in the foster care system.”

Community members interested in becoming a CASA volunteer are encouraged to apply now. In September, CASA will provide advocate training, which includes both online and in-person sessions.

“A lot of what a CASA volunteer does can be done on flexible schedules — talking to teachers over a lunch hour or going to visit the kids on the weekend or in the evenings,” Davis said. “There are some things fixed, like court hearings, but you typically know about those three or four months in advance.”

Click here for more information about CASA.

— Crystal Moreno is the recruitment and training manager for CASA of Santa Barbara County.