The Rutherford Report: CASA Provides Mentors for Foster Youth

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“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

—Benjamin Franklin
CASA Provides Mentors for Foster Youth

About 3,400 children in San Bernardino County live in foster care. Most suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of the people who were supposed to protect them.

Thankfully, a team of dedicated foster parents, social workers, judges and volunteers are working to do what’s best for these vulnerable youth so the young people can overcome the myriad challenges they face.

As a volunteer mentor with Court Appointed Special Advocates of San Bernardino County (CASA), Carlos Llamas, 27, of Fontana is a proud member of that team.

Carlos learned about CASA during a class on family violence at California State University, San Bernardino, where he’s currently working on a major in sociology.

Judges appoint CASA volunteers to represent the best interest of children under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Dependency court.

After completing 30 hours of training over several weeks, volunteers are given the opportunity to select the child that they would like to work with and are asked to develop a mentoring relationship by spending a minimum of 10 hours—but hopefully more—a month with the youth.

Volunteers advocate for their child by drafting reports in coordination with CASA staff members to provide recommendations to judges charged with determining how to best protect the interests of the child.

Like some volunteers, Carlos came into the experience expecting to make an immediate difference, but his expectations were tempered by the reality that changing a young person’s life, especially one who has been through so much, doesn’t happen over night.

“It’s hard for them to really open up to people, so it doesn’t really work like that,” he said. “What you’re doing is planting a seed.”

Carlos discovered the boy he was assigned was a big sports fan, so he took him to play basketball and to batting cages as they got to know each other. Since then, he’s taken the boy on his first snowboarding trip and on his first visit to Los Angeles where they enjoyed a Lakers game.

“I feel very happy with his improvement so far, and I can definitely see a change,” Carlos said. “I love doing this.”

Carlos recommends CASA to others who want to make a difference in a child’s life, but he also cautions that potential volunteers must be ready to commit at least 18 months to the work.

“There are so many kids out there going through tough situations, and they need to have some consistency,” he said. “If you are going to do it, you have to give 100%. If not, don’t do it at all.”

Visit to learn more about the nonprofit organization and its work to support children in foster care.
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