CASA volunteers needed for San Diego's foster kids - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

CASA volunteers needed for San Diego's foster kids

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - If you've always wanted to help a foster child, but aren't in a position to adopt this might be the perfect fit.

There's currently a shortage of volunteers who can help kids navigate through the court system.

The time commitment is relatively small – about 10 to 15 hours a month, but the difference you can make on a child's life is immense.

The bond they share, is unbreakable. Mary Jo Mathis is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as a CASA, and in that role she gave each of these girls hope and stability, during their time in foster care.

“She was just always there for me, I don't know what I would have done without her to be honest. She's just a very strong person, and I'm going to cry,” said Alena.

Nineteen-year-old Alena, who was adopted into a forever family five years ago, is so thankful to have had Mary Jo as her CASA.

“And even after I got adopted, she just continued to be there for me,” explained Alena.

“She has been so great to me and my sister,” said Rhonda.

Sixteen-year-old twins, Rhonda and Rachel, who were adopted into their forever family six years ago, say Mary Jo helped them learn to trust.

“Whenever we needed her, she was there. We would make a plan to see each other and she never stood us up,” continued Rhonda. “And I still hang out with her to this day, even though I'm adopted.”

Navigating through the foster care system can be scary and traumatic, but these girls knew they could always count on their CASA.

“People that we knew, they would just leave we would never see them again, but Mary Jo, she was still there, and it was nice,” said Rachel.

Mary Jo became a casa after her own four children left for college about a decade ago.

“One caring person in a kid's life on a consistent basis, makes a huge difference to those kids,” Mary Jo Mathis said.

A CASA's main role is to provide a voice for foster children, in the courtroom.

“CASA volunteers are a little different than mentors in that CASAs have a court order that allows them access confidential records of these children,” Sharon Lawrence, the CEO for Voices For Children. “They have the ability to talk to their therapist, their teachers, their foster parents and gather information and then their job is to present the information to the judge.”

And though it might sound complicated, Mary Jo says the non-profit group Voices for Children, which runs the CASA Program, offers support every step of the way, so it's not overwhelming.

“Not at all, it's just like everything else, the blessings come back one thousand fold,” Mathis added.

With 165 foster kids on the waiting list right now for a CASA volunteer, these girls are hoping their success stories inspire more people to step up, and make a difference in a child's life.

“It's just an amazing thing that could ever happen to kids that are in foster care right now and they should do it,” noted Alena.

Voices for Children is hoping to recruit hundreds of new volunteers. If you'd like to attend a free information session about becoming a CASA, CLICK HERE.

If you are interested in adopting or becoming a foster family, please call 1-877-I-ADOPT-U.


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