On Tuesday night, the Honorable Arthur Garcia swore in 14 volunteers as Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children. Family and friends gathered in the Santa Maria Juvenile Court to observe the volunteers take an oath promising to advocate for the best interest of the child.

The newly appointed CASA volunteers join 190 other dedicated community members who have been trained and are advocating for foster children in the county’s juvenile dependency court system. As officers of the court, they ensure that the needs of abused and neglected children are heard in the courtroom.  Advocates are asked to meet with the child for at least one hour each week and are authorized to interview people in the child’s life such as social workers, attorneys, and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge.

“There are many people in and out of the child’s life.  The advocate is often the only consistent adult presence in the child’s life throughout his or her case,” stated Kim Davis, Executive Director for CASA.

With over 100 children waiting for a CASA volunteer, many more advocates are still needed. CASA is striving to fulfill the need that every child in foster care has a volunteer by his or her side. There are no prerequisites for becoming a CASA volunteer other than being at least 21 years of age, clearing an extensive background screening, and successfully completing 30 hours of training.

Advocate training for Lompoc and Santa Maria begins January 2014. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer and the rewarding benefits that come along with serving as the voice of a child, please contact Tara Gross at (805) 739-9102 ext. 2595 or email tara@sbcasa.org. The volunteer application is available online at www.sbcasa.org.