Voices for Children is holding its inaugural “Your Voice, Their Future” campaign to recruit volunteers to advocate for San Diego County youth living in foster care.
Founded in 1980, Voices for Children is a local nonprofit organization that recruits, trains and supports Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers who speak up for the needs and well-being of children. The recruitment campaign runs through May 1 to recruit enough CASA volunteers to serve 100 foster youth.
These volunteers are specifically trained by the nonprofit to advocate for youth in court, school, medical settings, and more. According to the nonprofit, an estimated 3,500 children will spend time in foster care this year in San Diego County after experiencing abuse or neglect.
“They are among the most vulnerable members of our community. Once they enter the dependency system, their world suddenly includes court hearings, social workers, attorneys, and often new homes and schools. They need someone to step up and speak up for them during what can be a scary and challenging time,” reads a statement from Voices for Children in a press release.
Lilian Galiano, a Navy veteran, and mother of three became a CASA volunteer during a time when she felt a diminishing faith in humanity. She recalled reaching out to Voices for Children who then sent her a brochure.
She then began Advocate University, a rigorous six-week training program provided by the nonprofit to become a CASA for foster youth. Advocate University includes 35 hours of instruction covering topics like child development and dependency law, with a nominal fee for training that can be waived if needed.
The nonprofit provides a test at the end of the program, which certifies passing individuals as CASA.
“Being a CASA is very rewarding and very doable. The kids that need you are looking for you to be a constant in their lives, and that is what a CASA is, a constant,” Galiano said. “You just need to have the heart, the will, and the desire to help children that have gone through things that no one should go through.”