Each year nearly 500 children in Santa Cruz County experience foster care because they have been abused or neglected. The cases with the highest needs are referred to CASA to be matched with a Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate. CASA trains and supports these volunteers as they commit to serve a child or youth throughout the time they have an active case in the juvenile dependency court – sometimes up to two years or more.
The first class of 2019 began on January 29 with CASA’S new trainer, Jenny Hundemer. Trained as a social worker, Jenny says that, “Having worked with CASA for over 15 years, I’ve long known and appreciated the great work that is done by CASA volunteers, providing a voice for abused and neglected children in our community. Now that I have the chance to get to know the newest Advocates during their training, I am even more impressed. This class represents such a diversity of backgrounds, a real reflection of our County. Also, the level of care and commitment that these everyday people are showing up with, it is truly amazing!”
Volunteers are sworn in as Officers of the Court at the end of CASA’s 35-hour training and then choose a child or youth to serve whom they will spend a few hours a week getting to know. The volunteer gathers information from everyone involved in the child’s life and learns about their unique needs. Court Appointed Special Advocates are an important part of the child’s team and are often one of the only consistent adults in their lives while in foster care.
This class represents the largest percentage of bilingual volunteers in CASA’s history. 50% of the volunteers in this class speak Spanish. This is important because, up until now, children who have needed a bilingual Advocate waited twice as long to be matched with a caring volunteer. This class will hopefully meet the needs of local children much more quickly.
Another critical need right now is for volunteers who wish to work with children ages birth to five years old. The volunteer can work with the entire family to make a significant impact.
People interested in learning more about how to help are encouraged to visit casaofsantacruz.org or contact CASA’s Outreach and Recruitment Manager, Cita Rasul at firstname.lastname@example.org or (831) 761-2956, ext. 102