BROWNSVILLE — Children who are placed in foster care can spend a year waiting for a permanent home. CASA of Cameron and Willacy Counties is looking for volunteers who can advocate for the best interests of local children as their cases proceed through the legal system.

CASA will host its next training session Jan. 22, and applications are now available. Volunteers must be at least 21 years old, pass a background check and go though training.

“For every child that comes into care, we should be able to offer our services,” Executive Director Dora Martinez said. “That’s not the case yet, but that’s the hope.”

Martinez said about 42 percent of foster care children in Cameron and Willacy counties are in need of a volunteer advocate.

Volunteers come from all backgrounds and ages, said Training and Volunteer Specialist Claudia Ortiz, including people who work full-time and students.

They meet monthly with children at their foster home, speak with school or medical professionals, and appear at hearings in family court to advocate for the child’s needs. Volunteers always have the support of their supervisor, she added.

“It’s all looking toward finding the child a safe and permanent home,” Ortiz said.

Martinez said children in foster care can move homes between two and 10 times within a year. As a consistent presence, CASA volunteers can champion children’s medical or learning needs, as well as spot changes in behavior.

“A majority of cases are neglect, and many times (the children) haven’t had services for delays they may have,” she said. “This is the first time someone is making sure they get referred to the right services.”

Volunteer Recruiter Joe Medrano said CASA particularly hopes to increase volunteers in Port Isabel, South Padre Island and Willacy County. After 30 hours of training, volunteers typically spend eight to 12 hours per month on their case. CASA offers additional training throughout the year.

“We realize the importance of our volunteers, so we want to make sure they’re supported,” he said.

For more information contact CASA of Cameron and Willacy Counties, 1740 Boca Chica Blvd., Suite 300, Brownsville; (956) 546-6545; www. casaofcameronandwillacy.org; www.becomeacasa.org