SANTA MARIA, Calif. - More foster care children in Santa Barbara County are getting the help they need. CASA is welcoming new volunteers this month, but the agency is looking for more advocates to help youth in Santa Maria and Lompoc.
CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, work with a child's teachers, parents and social workers. They volunteer for 10 to 12 hours a month and report back to the judge, making a recommendation on the best outcome for the child they're assigned to.
They serve kids and young adults up until they turn 21.
“Our volunteers are assigned one-on-one to kids who are in the protective care of the court," said Kirta Cosio, Associate Director of Donor Engagement at CASA. "Children who have experienced some type of abuse, or neglect. And right now there's a huge need."
Last month, KCOY 12 reported about a surge in kids landing in the foster care system because of the opioid crisis.
"Those children really need someone to just watch out for their best interests, gather that information, and keep track of all the changes happening," said Cosio. “Our volunteers are there to hold that child's hand.”
While a child's case will continue moving through the system whether or not they have a CASA volunteer, the agency says there might be things that are missed.
“A baby had some hearing issues. The CASA volunteer would take them out on walks and just kind of over time, they realized that they wouldn't really react to firetrucks, or airplanes that would go over head and they advocated and advocated for this baby to see a specialist and finally they did," said Cosio.
CASA served more than 500 kids in Santa Barbara County in 2019.
Volunteers are always needed. There are more than 100 kids on the waiting list now.