Advocacy group recruits volunteers

In News

An information session was held Wednesday in the Titan Student Union to recruit and inform the Cal State Fullerton community on how to become an advocate for children in need.

Court Appointed Special Advocates, a non-profit organization, trains and seeks out volunteers to work with people in the court system and work with children under the age of 18.

Three million people live in Orange County, and one million of them are minors. From this million, the Child Abuse Hotline receives more than 25,000 phone calls about possible child abuse, said Karrah Lompa, a communications relations representative for CASA.

The organization has worked with 434 children in the past year, which is 13 percent of the children in the court system. Lompa said they hope to work with 600 children a year by 2007.

Lompa spoke to students in attendance about the requirements of being a volunteer, the training and the rewards of being an advocate.

The volunteers work with children who are in situations ranging from having drug-addicted parents, to simply living a life riddled with neglect. Most of the children live in group homes or foster homes, and are looking for stability and an authority figure that is interested in taking the time to help.

To volunteer, the organization expects at least 10-15 hours of commitment a month, which includes face-to-face time with the children, and calls to various authorities in their life; such as judges and social workers. Also, they expect a one to two-year commitment.

“You serve as the judge’s eyes and ears and have to be the voice of the child in the court,” Lompa said.

After deciding to volunteer, many steps must be taken, such as training. The training is 30 hours long, with classes on the roles and responsibilities of being a volunteer, child development and child abuse.

After the training is over, the staff pairs each volunteer with a suitable match. Then the interaction can start, which can be anything from playing basketball to going to the movies.

Mercedes Felix, a junior mathematics major, worked at an early intervention center for children at risk, which led her to attend the information session.

“I am interested in volunteering because I am going to have a lighter load over the summer,” she said.

Students interested in volunteering must be at least 21 years old to volunteer, but there are volunteer opportunities within the organization for mentoring and office work for those under 21 years old, but no interaction with the children is allowed.

Eva Orozco, a senior public relations major, has been working with a group promoting CASA for her Public Relations Management class, and said she has learned a lot through the participation.

“I might volunteer in a few years. Being a mentor first and then getting into the program would be best, because it’s very time-consuming as a student,” she said.

The next information session and training dates can be found on the Web site, www.casaoc.org.

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