LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With more children in foster care in Los Angeles County than any other county in the U.S., an agency that pairs volunteer advocates with foster children is putting out an urgent call for volunteers.
L.A. County has more than 30,000 children in its foster care system. While there is a severe need for foster parents willing to take children into their home, there is also a great need for adults willing to be a child’s advocate in court, advocates say.
CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, provides an opportunity for people to change the life of a child without bringing them into their home or taking the opportunity to be a foster parent, said Wende Julien, CEO of CASA of LA.
Becoming a foster parent is a 24-hour commitment, but becoming a CASA is a volunteer opportunity of 10 to 15 hours a month. Julian said CASAs typically accompany children to court, visit them at school, and make recommendations in written reports to judges.
“It’s a much lesser commitment, but still has a huge impact on a child’s life,” she said.
The list for children who are currently waiting for a CASA volunteer now tops 300, and CASA/LA says they have identified 10,000 more cases in urgent need of attention.
Volunteers can sign up online, where they can also undergo an information session. CASAs will be trained to learn about the system – the social workers, the courts and lawyers that a foster child has to navigate – and CASA/LA will provide a staff member who will be a point of contact for the volunteer.
With the holidays right around the corner, Julian said foster children are just as joyful at this time of year as any other child, in spite of the hardships they may have experienced. It’s an ideal opportunity for volunteer-minded people looking to give back.
“What our kids need is the same thing that all kids need – they need a caring adult, they need people they can count on, they need good schools, they need opportunities to go to the doctor and get mental health care,” Julian said. “That’s what a CASA volunteer is able to do, is make sure they’re getting access to all those resources they need so that kids can be kids, and they can think about the presents that they want, and about their fun, end-of-school year activities.”
Visit www.CASALA.org for more information.