CASA of Santa Barbara County is looking for volunteers to advocate for children in cases of abuse and neglect and the need is great – and growing.

Imagine a child being roused in the middle of the night and escorted out of his home by a police officer. The child – abused, neglected or abandoned by his parents – is being taken away for his own safety.

The emotions the child can experience while being led away from his home range from afraid to angry. An agent from Child Protective Services is on hand to bring the child to a foster home where he is placed until the situation is resolved.

This type of situation is unfortunately played out numerous times throughout Santa Barbara County.

CASA volunteers can make a difference in a child’s life.

The mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is to assure a safe, permanent, nurturing home for every abused and/or neglected child by providing a highly trained volunteer to advocate for them in the court system. CASA volunteers come from all walks of life and there are no particular characteristics sought, save for the ability to have the child’s best interests in mind.

“CASA volunteers are essentially the eyes and ears of the court,” say Kim Davis, Executive Director of CASA. “In Santa Barbara County, the need for volunteers is great”, Davis stresses. “There are more than 100 children on our priority list right now.”

Anyone can be a part of CASA. All that is needed is some time and a desire to help children as they navigate their way through the juvenile dependency system.

In order to become a CASA volunteer, one must be at least 21 years of age, submit an online application and pass a background check.

Candidates must go through a 30-hour comprehensive training program which includes learning about child abuse and neglect, child advocacy, and appropriate services for the children served. The training prepares individuals for their role as a CASA volunteer.

Once training is complete, volunteers are sworn in by a juvenile court judge and are assigned to a child’s case. CASA volunteers are required to meet with their child for at least one hour per week and stay involved in a child’s case until the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. Volunteers receive continued support throughout the case from CASA staff members.

Volunteers are being sought right now for the training session held in Lompoc that begins in March. The training session is open to individuals throughout Santa Barbara County who are willing to advocate for a child in Lompoc. In order to participate in training, you will need to complete the online volunteer application available at www.sbcasa.org no later than February 21.

For more information contact Tara Gross at (805) 739-9102 ext. 2595 or email volunteer@sbcasa.org.