Valley News -

By Jeff Pack
Writer 

Retired Marine continues to serve, this time it's for foster children

 

Last updated 11/9/2018 at 12:17am

Jose Padilla

U.S. Marine Corps veteran and Temecula resident Jose Padilla is a Court Appointed Special Advocate or CASA who has advocated for the foster children he is paired up with for the past three years.

After growing up in the Northern California community of Hayward, Jose Padilla entered the U.S. Marine Corps to serve his country.

These days, the Temecula resident and retired gunnery sergeant is serving the needs of foster children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate or CASA volunteer with Voices for Children, a nonprofit organization based in Riverside that serves the entire county.

According to the organization, CASAs are advocates and problem-solvers who work one-on-one with a child or set of siblings in foster care to ensure their needs are met. CASAs visit where the child lives and where they go to school and observe most aspects of the child's life.

Since retiring from the military, Padilla became a CASA in 2016 and has served as an advocate on two cases.

"Jose is an incredibly generous and humble person, whose life has been marked by service to others," Jessica Munoz, executive director of Voices for Children's Riverside County branch, said. "Not only did he serve our country as a member of the military, but he continues to give by advocating on behalf of vulnerable children in foster care. We are so honored to work alongside and support volunteers like Jose as they make a lasting impact for our community."

During his military career, Padilla received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2005 and 2010, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in 1997, 2000 and 2002. He now works at Northrop Grumman Corporation as a materials analyst.

"When I did retire, I found myself with some free time," Padilla said in a phone interview. "I know that when I was a child, I was surrounded by a lot of positive influences in my life that really helped guide me to make good decisions. So, I felt that now it was my turn to give back."

He said he felt like the CASA program was a perfect fit for him.

"Foster children are in such great need for that support," he said.

Padilla was not in the foster care system, but he heard of the program through a friend, did research on the program and recognized the need that foster children have for an advocate.

"From what I've experienced, because they are relocated so often, sometimes a lot of their information, their requirements and needs fall through the cracks," he said. "Because the caseload is so high for social workers, sometimes, just that addition help from a CASA could really mean that difference for that child."

Amanda Schaap, director of communications for Voices for Children, said that the perception of why foster children may be underserved in our society is based on the confidentiality that is required to protect the children.

"They have been through so much and need help to get through this really difficult time in their life," she said. "To help with that process of getting back to a safe, permanent home, it is really important for the court system to protect that confidentially, so it's not as talked about in our society."

Schaap said there is a misconception that the only way to help a foster child is by being a foster parent, but the CASA program provides another way to help.

Padilla, who is also a married father of four children, said his role as a CASA is important.

"For me it's become more of an emotional attachment," he said. "It's not a once a month, Saturday commitment. It does require me to become more immerse into the life of that child."

CASAs also review medical records, talk to therapists, meet with family members and relatives and write a court report every six months to provide information that the court might not otherwise have.

"There's really a lot of individuals involved," Padilla said. "My child has been told to do this and do that by so many different people, and I just told him that I am there as a friend. I'm there really to represent him and support him, to provide any kind of assistance that I can provide for him.

"The bond that's built is one that's not a foster child and a volunteer, but almost like a child of my own."

According to Schaap, CASAs are asked for an 18-month commitment. The amount of time a CASA spends with one child or a group of siblings depends generally on the length of time they are needed before being placed in a permanent home or returned to birth parents.

"A lot of our CASAs end up staying on longer than that," she said. "Either on one case or taking another case once their case closes."

Padilla said he wasn't aware of the 18-month commitment.

"I think I just assumed I would stay on as long as I could help," he laughed. "For me personally, as long as that child is provided that support that he or she needs, as long as I'm really needed."

Jose Padilla

During his military career as a gunnery sergeant, Court Appointed Special Advocate Jose Padilla received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2005 and 2010, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in 1997, 2000 and 2002.

Padilla doesn't really see an end in sight to his involvement as a CASA.

"This is really my focus, to continue with the program and support foster children," he said.

Padilla said his family is "very supportive" of his volunteerism, and it was his wife, a therapist, who introduced him to the program.

"I don't how she heard of the program," he said. "She said volunteering for the program would be great. And that's how I got tied in with the children and never looked back. I think it was the best decision I have made."

Informational sessions are being held in Temecula for people interested in volunteering as a CASA from 6-7:15 p.m., Nov. 13 and Dec. 11. The address for the sessions will be provided to interested parties after registering for the session.

To register or for more information about Voices for Children, visit http://www.speakupnow.org.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018

Rendered 11/12/2018 21:17