Allan Abrams has been a volunteer with CASA of San Luis Obispo County for two months.
“They (the kids) need role models in their lives because that's what they've been lacking the most,” Abrams said.
His dog, Cooper, is a big help.
“I meet with my youth once a week for one to two hours, and I try and vary the activity,” Abrams explained. “He's a pre-teenager, so we go hiking in Pismo and Morro and in in the area. I bring my dog with me sometimes, and we go to local dog parks or the Avila or Morro Beach dog park and we play.”
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. The organization serves around 270 kids.
“When a child is removed from their home due to severe abuse or neglect by a judge, we match them with a well-trained adult mentor who becomes their advocate and their mentor during the time they're removed from their home until they achieve permanency,” said Marina Bernheimer, SLO CASA’s Executive Director.
CASA of SLO County is looking to recruit more Latinos and Spanish speakers.
“About 25% of the kids that we serve come from Latino families, and we would really love to match those kids with people from their own backgrounds who speak the language,” Bernheimer said.
Men are also needed.
“We really are seeking out male volunteers because about 40% of the kids that we serve are males and about 20% of our volunteers are males,” Bernheimer said.
Becoming a volunteer requires a 10 to 15-hour commitment per month. No specific career or background is required.
“A caring, stable, dependable adult is really what we're looking for,” Bernheimer said.
Volunteers will have to apply and go through a background check and training.
“We provide a really comprehensive eight-week training to our volunteers before they are assigned to a case, and that helps them understand trauma-informed care, how to work within the court system, how the dependency court system works,” Bernheimer explained.
The goal is to give kids a safe haven.
“For me, the most rewarding part is I can offer him stability, the youth stability, and someplace that he can be safe for a few hours each week out of his day,” Abrams said.
If you want to become a volunteer, click here to sign up for an info session.
The next CASA volunteer training will take place in July.