A Central Coast assemblyman recently honored a local organization whose primary mission is helping children.
Jordan Cunningham, who represents the 35th Assembly District, named Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Santa Barbara County as his district’s nonprofit of the year.
“CASA organizations throughout the state do amazing work to help the most vulnerable children in our society,” Cunningham said. “Throughout the pandemic, the volunteers and staff at CASA of Santa Barbara County helped bring positive change to hundreds of local children."
Through the nonprofit, volunteer advocates are recruited and trained to represent children in Santa Barbara County who have been neglected and abused.
“CASA of Santa Barbara County overcame tremendous challenges to continue providing advocacy for children while ensuring the safety of our staff and volunteers over the course of the pandemic. As a result, we served a record-breaking number of children this year, providing advocacy for 544 children ages 0-21,” said Kim Colby Davis, executive director.
Volunteers must undergo 35 hours of CASA-administered training at which time they are assigned as advocates for children in court.
First, volunteers get to know the child, meeting with a child once a week, and are allowed to interview anyone in the child's life including attorneys, doctors, coaches and teachers. That information is tthen gathered to inform judges and others about the child's needs. Volunteers spend about 10 to 12 hours each week on behalf of the children they are representing, according to Davis.
The organization, which had been providing services as a program under a local youth services agency since 1993, became independent in 1995 when it was awarded 501(c)(3) status, according to Guidestar.org, a database that tracks nonprofits.