When kids end up in the court system, the experience can be overwhelming. With that in mind, a group of volunteers organizes to provide support for these youths.
Because of high gas prices and a slow economy, however, there has been a shortage of volunteers for the Yolo County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program for child victims, volunteers say. Currently, there are approximately 50 children on the waiting list in need of an advocate.
“Usually, the child is too small to speak for the family or too traumatized to speak for themselves,” said Olga Trevizo, the program development director of CASA. “The advocates not only serve as a mentor, but also as an actual voice for them in court.“
An advocate will use the time they spend with the child to help make the best decision for the child based on the advocate’s own perspective.
“Advocates get a 360-degree view on the child,” Trevizo said. “It is a special type of civic duty to help a child and it’s all done by volunteering.“
Yolo County has only 60 homes that are open to foster care, she said, leaving much of the support work left to advocate volunteers who commute. Because of the gas prices, the organization is having a harder time finding volunteers willing to drive and visit the child.
“If the advocate visits them, they have to drive far when they [may] barely have enough gas to put in their tank,” Trevizo said.
Jack Jackson, an advocate of eight years and retired UC Davis professor, believes that having more advocates will allow more one-on-one interaction.
“You will have a closer interaction with kids and closer relationship with the kids because you’re most likely going to see the kids more often,” he said. “If you see the kids often they can tell you how they feel and by building trust you can advocate better.“
Those with jobs may have a hard time commuting and spending the time advocating for children.
“The gas prices and the distance make a big difference,“ Jackson said. “I have more free time than those who are working. And those who are working might not have enough time.“
In an effort to raise money to bring in more volunteers, CASA will be hosting several fundraisers and events, such as a clown parade this Saturday in Sacramento. Tina Renolds, a graphic designer, decided to host the fundraiser for CASA instead of celebrating her 60th birthday.
“She’s decided throw a fundraiser and give money to organizations,” Trevizo said. “It’s a children-themed clown parade.“
CASA has received philanthropic support from the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at UC Davis since 1992.
“We try our best to support them as possible,” said philanthropic chair of UC Davis‘ Kappa Alpha Theta, Sarah Wright. “We became really intertwined with CASA, and we learned how the organization works first-hand and how they make an impact on the Yolo County committee. CASA is very unique [because] it’s a volunteer based organization that makes a huge impact on a child’s life.“
The sorority also has annual fundraisers and events to support CASA. On Oct. 9, Kappa Alpha Theta will be hosting an event called Rock Our CASA, a backyard barbeque and concert. It will take place at the sorority house on 200 Parkway Circle, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For those interested in becoming an advocate, call Yolo CASA at 661-4346. Mandatory training classes will begin at the end of October.
JANET HUNG can be reached at email@example.com.