Recognizing the trend that volunteers are more pressed for time and require more flexibility, CASA of Santa Barbara County will now offer Flex Learning for those interested in becoming a CASA volunteer. The Flex Learning curriculum is a blended approach to training that combines in-person and online delivery of information.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, trains volunteers who are sworn in by a juvenile judge to help ensure abused or neglected children find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. The role of a CASA volunteer is to act as an extra pair of eyes and ears for the court, collecting information through observation and interviews with key people in the child’s life before reporting back to the judge. There are currently more than 100 children in Santa Barbara County who are waiting to be matched with a CASA volunteer.

In order to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, volunteers must complete a total of 30 pre-service training hours. “Previously, the only option we offered was 30 hours of in-person training”, stated CASA Volunteer Manager Crystal Moreno. Now with the blended Flex Learning, CASA has made it easier than ever to become a volunteer. Trainees will complete half of the training online and half in person.

The self-guided online sessions are user friendly and introduce volunteers to the key elements of CASA work and the tools for effective child advocacy. The in-person training occurs in five sessions, meeting one night per week from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. The in-person sessions use case studies to introduce participants to a variety of dynamic topics including child abuse and neglect, bonding and attachment, cultural awareness, communicating with children, interviewing, and writing a compelling court report.

Once training is complete, volunteers are required to visit their case child on a weekly basis for a minimum of one hour. Volunteers donate an average of 8-10 hours a month spending time with the child and gathering information. Volunteers are asked to commit until the case has been closed—a minimum of one year. The CASA volunteer is often the only consistent adult in the child’s life who stays involved in the case from beginning to end, providing stability and continuity that is desperately needed.

“By giving potential volunteers a more flexible option for training, we hope it will open the door for more people who weren’t able to previously commit. Trainees will be able to complete the online portion at their own convenience, whether it be midnight, the middle of the day or during the weekend”, continued Moreno.

For information on how to become a volunteer or upcoming training opportunities, contact Tara Gross at (805) 739-9102 ext. 2595 or email tara@sbcasa.org.