More than 26,000 Los Angeles County children are in foster care. That’s the highest concentration in the nation. A Southland nonprofit is stepping up efforts to recruit and train volunteers who can help with foster kids, especially in the courts.
Many children have it rough in a foster care system that’s already overburdened, said Dilys Garcia. She runs LA’s “Court Appointed Special Advocates” program - CASA for short.
“They are, because of abuse or neglect, removed from their families - so they’ve already had one trauma and then they enter the foster care system," Garcia said. "And often it becomes a continuing trauma because their experience once they come into the system is really harrowing.”
About 400 people volunteer with CASA of LA. Staffers say they want to double that number in the next couple of years. Some cases assigned to volunteers take a day. Others last much longer. Garcia said volunteers work at CASA’s main office in Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park.
“They give orientations to children who are in court for the first time," she explained. "They escort unaccompanied children to court, and they help make sure that the kids are understanding what has transpired and what the next steps are.”
She adds that organizers hope to diversify the staff.
“We’re actively recruiting the African American community because there are so many children of color in the system. They are disproportionately represented. And we’re also looking at attracting more Latino volunteers.”
CASA accepts volunteers as young as 25 years old.
Organizers plan a recruitment event Saturday morning at Dorsey High School in South Los Angeles. More than a quarter of the students there are foster kids. The event begins at 10 o’clock and continues until noon.
Dorsey High is located at 3537 Farmdale Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90016. Parking is free.