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Advocate Spotlight- Mitch Barlas

Mitch has been a volunteer Advocate with CASA of Santa Cruz County for 4 years and counting. A former teacher and school administrator, his love for kids has driven his involvement in helping out foster youth. During his time as a volunteer, Mitch has had the opportunity to work with 3 teens so far.

After his first match with a 14 year-old which lasted 7 months, Mitch was matched as a mentor and advocate for J.C. (fictitious name), a now junior in high school. For two years, Mitch helped J.C. navigate their emotions in precarious situations, and provided some communication tools to help them engage with those around them. In addition, Mitch advocated for J.C.’s educational needs by requesting services and support from school faculty to accommodate J.C.’s learning styles and interests so that they could succeed. Finally, Mitch was able to help prepare J.C. to reunite with their family, which happened in March 2021. Despite moving out of state, J.C has remained in contact with Mitch on a biweekly basis and is doing great since reunification.

Recently, Mitch began participation in a Pilot Program for Juvenile Justice youth which is an extension of the traditional CASA foster-youth program. Advocates in this program are assigned youth from the Juvenile Justice court who may or may not also be involved in the Dependency Court. After completing the specialized training required for this program, Mitch was matched with Steve (fictitious name), in June of 2021. Utilizing the skills obtained from his training, Mitch has helped Steve meet his probation goals while also supporting him emotionally. Although they have only met a few times so far, Mitch hopes to help Steve further navigate through his emotions as well as help him find another path to avoid trouble with the law in the future.

Overall, Mitch feels that this Pilot Program is a wonderful opportunity for CASA, and himself, to make a difference for teens who get in trouble with the law. To be part of a team that helps kids get back on track is all that Mitch hopes to achieve as he continues to serve as a CASA and make an impact on the community. 

Thank you Mitch!!!