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December 30, 2009 > Protecting neglected children

Protecting neglected children

By Meenu Gupta

For over 23 years, Milpitas-based Child Advocates of Silicon Valley has served at-risk children in the foster care system by providing a trained, dedicated volunteer to mentor and advocate for the child's best interests. Court appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteers are trained by the non-profit organization. Advocates help children realize their potential through weekly outings with the child and ongoing assessment of the child's needs. Co-founded in 1986 by Judge Leonard Edwards and a community volunteer, Child Advocates is the only organization appointed by the Santa Clara County Juvenile Dependency Court to represent the needs of kids who have faced daunting challenges very early in life. Since its inception, the organization has cared for over 15,000 children. "Our Advocates have volunteered over 1.2 million hours," said Communications Manager Jerry Fontanares.

Community volunteers are welcome to apply. "We do expect a one year commitment and the volunteers will go through training and attend orientation" said Fontanares. Training topics will include foster care, core advocacy, and a court visit. Speakers include dependency professionals; judges, and social workers.

Currently, Child Advocates has over 200 foster children on a waiting list for an advocate volunteer. March core training begins on Tuesday, March 9 and will be held every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., including an all-day session Saturday, March 13, and runs until Tuesday, April 6. To sign up for an orientation, please e-mail or call (408) 573-5665. To learn more about becoming an Advocate visit "The first step, however, is to attend one of our one hour orientations," said Fontanares.

"The orientation and training experience provides a lot of insight. Working with a supervisor in the child advocate office really makes it easier for advocates to help the kids we work with. As child advocates we collaborate on all faucets of the system including social workers, therapist, lawyers, teacher, parents, and most importantly the children," said Alyssa Stupi, who has been working as a Child Advocate for six months.

"The average day as an Advocate working with a child includes going to the library to work on homework, going to the movies, going to the park, arts and crafts, or ice skating. There are a lot of options on what to do with your advocate child but most importantly as an advocate I am there to relate to the child, support them and their needs, encourage, and experience new things."

"Self esteem is a big issue for many children in the dependency system. Working on school work is also an important part of being an advocate. The holidays are a special time and for many of these kids it can be sad; I am happy that I can be there to make a difference in at least one child's life," she said.

Child Advocates of Silicon Valley
509 Valley Way, Building 2, Milpitas
(408) 416-0400

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