Since 2008, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of San Benito County has worked with 25-30 children annually. So far the organization has served a total of 232 children. Many of them are placed out of county because of the shortage of foster homes in the county.
The nonprofit is also experiencing a shortage of advocates and currently recruiting for their next volunteer training session which starts in the fall.
On June 23, CASA held its first Friends of CASA luncheon at the Epicenter in Hollister. CASA raised over $8,000 at the event and will receive a matching grant from the Clark Family Fund through the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
CASA board member and past president Mark Vivian was MC for the event with Patterson Emesibe, who is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at CSUMB, serving as guest speaker. Over 50 people attended, including CASA board members, staff, advocates, San Benito County Superior Court judges and community members.
Emesibe told his story as the eldest son of Nigerian immigrants who, following the deaths of his mother and grandmother at the hands of his father, became responsible for his four younger siblings.
Before she died, Emesibe’s mother told him if anything should happen to her, he, as the eldest, would need to take care of the family. With guidance from an aunt and a teacher he was able to do so, though at times he fell short—often acting out, hanging with the wrong people and using drugs. He told BenitoLink, “I wish I would have had a CASA, someone from the outside to help me.”
According to CASA’s website, the group’s volunteers are individuals appointed by the court to “advocate for abused or neglected children placed in foster care; upholding the children’s rights while pursuing a safe and permanent home.”
CASA board member and former advocate, Jean Murray, told BenitoLink, “It means a whole lot” to have been there for the children. Among her concerns is the low number of families in San Benito County that take in foster children. She said over the years many children have had to be relocated in Merced County. Not only have they lost some of their family, she said, they are then losing friends, teachers and other people and places they have known.
Teknova sponsored the event, which included lunch catered by Farmhouse Café.
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