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SPECIAL REPORT: CASA for the children

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - It goes without saying that the most important to care for is our children. From love and support to providing them with the necessities to be successful.

But here in Yuma County, many children whose parents are caught up in the legal system don't have those basic needs.

One organization looking to change that narrative are the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Yuma County, or CASA for short.

These individuals or families are appointed by the court system to be the extra level of support for children who are in the system. They're appointed by a judge to take a case where a child is in foster care.

Half of the children impacted by the court system do not have a CASA which further stains the ability of children to obtain necessities like clothes and school supplies.

"They're the one person consistent person in that child's life," said Sandy Garrison, one of CASA's coordinators. "Chances are real good their case manager will change, their therapist will change and even their school teacher will change. But their CASA will never change."

Each year, the CASA organization honors those who positively impact these children's lives. Those who participate in cases go through educational workshops. These programs are after a huge commitment which was highlighted during their yearly banquet.

"These are some very busy people that carve out a little bit of time to help this child. I think that speaks volumes about the kind of people that live in Yuma County," shared Garrison. "We care for each other and we feel safe, so we work really hard as an organization to make sure that their fate."

In total, CASA of Yuma County spent a total of 907 hours in educational workshops. They also often travel out of the county to help children across the state of Arizona. Yuma County cases traveled a total of 31,734 miles in 2023.

"This is one of the best communities that I've seen," said Sophia Cazares, a first-year CASA who was honored as their Rookie of the Year for 2023. "I volunteered in a lot of places and the support that you get here from the staff, from the coordinators is nothing I've ever seen. If you're a CASA, they treat you like royalty. They do whatever they can to be able to help in any issue that I've ever had. They're all like, let's figure this out. So that's what I like about it."

One young woman who had a CASA between the ages of 11 and 18 explained why hers was more than just supportive.

"The first couple times we just got to know each other. We would go to the park. But then after that went to the the thrift shop because she knew that I like to volunteer and do things like that. We had a good time," said Stephanie Ordaz. "It was pretty fun. CASA was really, really beneficial for me because she went to my court date. She went to I mean, I'm sure she would have gone to like my volleyball games if I had invited her because she was that cool."

Ordaz would go on to study social work and is now a middle school counselor here in Yuma County. Her experiences give her a unique way to connect with children who are now going through their own struggles.

"It comes full circle. I feel like that experience that I lived when I was a kid, really helped me in the field that I'm in now," said Ordaz. "I think that I've always wanted to help people. I just didn't know what capacity I believe in, people. I feel like people deserve chances and I feel like a lot of the kids in the system get kind of swept under the rug. I just wanted to be different and show that you can come out from it and you can still be great."

All of the women who participate in CASA know just how vital they are to our community.

"For me, it always helps me to be grateful to be able to see. Sometimes we think that we're just the only ones helping the children through their life," said Cazares. "In that way, it affects me because sometimes it's not just me trying to help the child. They help me in ways that they probably don't know and so it makes me very grateful."

Currently, there are 180 cases involving children within the Yuma County court system with only 78 of those children having access to a CASA.

If you would like to be part of the CASA organization or learn more about what they do, you can call them at (928) 314-1900 or on their website at

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Jalen Fong

Jalen joined KYMA in 2022 and is a morning anchor/producer. Send your story ideas to him at:


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