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Santa Maria, Calif. – February 27, 2017 – Monday evening, the Honorable Arthur Garcia received 11 community volunteers as Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children, swearing them in as officers of the court. Family and friends gathered in the Santa Maria Juvenile Court to watch as volunteers took an oath promising to advocate for the best interest of the child.

The newly sworn volunteers include three couples, helping to achieve a goal CASA has set to increase the number of men advocating for children, half of whom are boys. Also, CASA of Santa Barbara County’s co – founder and first Executive Director, Shelley Cole, returned to CASA to renew her oath and return to service as a CASA. “After twenty-plus years it is so exciting to be back,” explains Cole. “The program has grown tremendously and I am so proud to be back as a volunteer.”

“Advocating for vulnerable populations seems to be a passion among CASA directors,” stated Kim Colby Davis, Executive Director of CASA of Santa Barbara County. “Our other previous directors continue to do vital work in our community, with Ernesto Parades at the helm of Easy Lift Transportation, and Maria Long leading Doctors Without Walls, you can see that the commitment to those in need runs deep in the CASA organization. And now, we welcome Shelly back to the team and know she will make a difference in the life of yet another child.”

The newly appointed CASA volunteers join more than 300 other dedicated community members who have received advanced training and are advocating for children in the county’s juvenile dependency court system, all of whom have been victims of the crime of child abuse and/or neglect. As officers of the court, CASA volunteers ensure that the needs of abused and neglected children are heard in the courtroom.

Advocates commit to meeting with the child for at least one hour each week and they are authorized to interview people in the child’s life – such as social workers, attorneys, and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child twice each year and report their findings to the judge. “What you are doing will make a difference,” said Judge Garcia. “I am thanking you in advance for your service because not all children will thank you. But, one day they will look back and wish they did.”

With 59 children currently waiting for a CASA volunteer, many more advocates are needed. CASA has set a goal to serve every child on the waitlist and anticipates they will need 120 more volunteers in 2017 to meet the goal. People from all walks of life are CASA volunteers. You must be at least 21 years of age, clear an extensive background screening, and successfully complete 30 hours of CASA volunteer training.

CASA’s next volunteer training beings in May. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer and being a voice for a child, please contact Crystal Moreno, Recruiting and Outreach Director (805) 739-9102 ext. 2594 or email Crystal@sbcasa.org. For more information about making a donation, or getting involved in a variety of other ways, visit www.sbcasa.org.