New CASA mentors sought
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children is seeking 35 new volunteer mentors to support local children and teens currently in foster care and moving through Sonoma County’s court system. The CASA program’s mission to provide stability, advocacy, and individualized support for displaced youth in the foster care system has taken on increased importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, explains Millie Gilson, CASA’s executive director, in a press release announcing the recruitment effort. “As we continue to deal with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic, it is more critical than ever that children in foster care have someone who is making sure their needs are met and that our courts have trusted and trained advocates who can alert them if a child is in danger or has critical needs,” she says. According to CASA, Sonoma County juvenile court officials have identified 55 youths currently in need of the specialized support care provided by CASA mentors. The CASA program presently has 187 volunteers. Children in the foster care system are especially vulnerable to trauma, according to CASA. “Studies have shown foster children are more likely to struggle in school, have run-ins with law enforcement, experience homelessness, and abuse drugs or alcohol,” the press release states. “Research also shows that abused children are more apt to grow up to abuse their own kids.” The CASA commitment involves about 10 hours each week and lasts until the child transitions out of the foster care system and into a safe, permanent home. “Our CASA volunteers … make sure foster kids don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service systems or languish in unsupportive foster homes,” Gilson explains. The CASA program’s spring volunteer training is scheduled to take place online. The training begins on Thursday, March 18, 10–12:30 p.m., and continues Tuesday, March 23 through Thursday, March 25, 9–12:30 p.m. For more information and to sign up for the CASA training, contact Millie Gilson at 565-6375 or [email protected]. To find out more about CASA of Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacasa.org.