Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
When we think of volunteering, intermittent drop-ins, food drives, and the occasional donation come to mind. We often overlook long-term committed individuals coming together for good. Around this time of year, we start to see more people express interest in coming on board. With time off from school and work, families use the holidays to give back to communities in need. Nationally, projects see considerable increases in volunteerism during the holidays. While local nonprofits and organizations appreciate this influx of helping hands, it can be confounding. Throughout the rest of the year, it’s often a struggle to fill volunteer roles.
In many ways, the pandemic surfaced the underlying flaws in our systems, making it even more apparent how and what we can do to help those most vulnerable in our community. Since the pandemic, there has been an increase in numbers and commitment coming from those seeking volunteer opportunities across the country – but this is not enough to make the impact we know we can achieve.
GET TO KNOW US
Many organizations, like CASA of Los Angeles (CASA/LA) rely heavily on support from volunteers to make the work possible. As a volunteer-driven organization, we mobilize community members of all backgrounds to advocate for underserved children and families impacted by the Los Angeles child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Our volunteers are just as integral to our work as our full-time staff. We recruit the most reliable, dedicated, and compassionate people to join our team. Without our highly trained, committed Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) we would not be able to meet the needs of our community.
Everyone has a different story behind why they became a CASA/LA volunteer. Some have experienced the foster care system first-hand, either as a parent or a child. Others know someone who has been affected by the juvenile justice system. While we receive a wide range of volunteers with varying motivations calling them to step forward, they all have one thing in common – caring for our youth.
“One person can be the tipping point that turns a life in a positive direction. Without that little nudge, that child’s life can take the opposite direction. If you can help change their trajectory where the youth feels like they might have a chance, maybe they have somebody in their corner, maybe they have someone who believes in them and believes them to be of value, that can change everything.” – Sam, CASA volunteer
NOT YOUR AVERAGE VOLUNTEERS
While any role that requires a court appointment may seem intimidating, the work is easier done than said. Volunteers must complete an application, interview, and complete full training before being assigned to a case. Our volunteer match program members will be there every step of the way. We seek to learn more about the individual, why they are interested, and if they have the capacity to give their casework the time and attention required. Once trained, CASAs are appointed by a judge to an individual child’s case, to act and advocate for the child’s best interests in court and in all aspects of their life, making a positive difference and giving them an opportunity to thrive.
CASA/LA is a part of a larger movement powered by youth justice, steeped in humanity, and woven in kindness that is steadily redefining what community involvement, advocacy, and cultural competency look like. We are pioneering a new model of volunteer engagement, recruitment and training. Our training is intentional and responsive to the highly specialized needs of the youth we serve. Through strengths-based advocacy and life-affirming connections, we do our best to change the trajectory of a child’s life. For many of the youth we work with, repairing relationships with adult figures in their lives is critical to their development and life outcomes. Our volunteers have the unique opportunity to not only become community leaders, but model supportive and caring relationships for children to gain a sense of hope and belonging.
DARE TO STAND FOR YOUTH
There is not enough support for those most vulnerable among us. It is up to us to change this. Children are the future leaders of tomorrow. The time is now to give them the fundamental tools to drive the change we all envision for our community. So stand up for our youth – we dare you.
If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of youth in your community or want to deepen your understanding of the child welfare and juvenile justice system, we encourage you to join the CASA/LA family. Sign up for our upcoming information sessions to learn more and apply.