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North County kids in desperate need of court advocates 

Some of the most vulnerable individuals in the SLO County Court system are children. A large group of those children currently needing advocates to represent their interests reside in northern San Luis Obispo County.

According to CASA of San Luis Obispo County—a nonprofit organization that trains volunteers to act as Court Appointed Special Advocates for infants, toddlers, children, and youth in the court system—roughly 40 percent of the children currently in need of the organization’s services reside in North County.

“While we serve the entire county, there are more kids in the north that need services,” said CASA’s North County program manager, Melanie Barket.

Of the 460 youth that currently need CASA’s services, 180 reside in North County. However, Barket said the organization only has enough capacity to help 60 of them.

CASA of SLO County hopes to address that need by expanding into North County, thanks to a four-year, $262,000 grant from Must! Charities, another nonprofit organization. The grant created Barket’s position as North County manager, and will allow her to pound the pavement and spread awareness about the program, recruit potential volunteers, and hold trainings in the area.

By end of the grant’s first year, Barket said CASA hopes to add between 18 and 20 volunteers advocates that could serve up to 28 North County children. By the end of the grant, CASA hopes to have a total of 66 volunteers serving 92 children in the area.

“It’s a pretty lofty goal, and its going to take a lot of effort,” Barket said, “It’s a big job ahead of us, but I believe we can do it.”

CASA plans to hold two volunteer trainings in North County in March and September. For more information call 541-6542 or go to slocasa.org

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