Lloyd Carloss has traveled a long road to get where he is now — studying for a high school equivalency diploma with plans to learn a trade at the Carville Job Corps Center.

Carloss was placed in foster care at 7 or 8 years old. He said his mother wasn’t able to care for him properly, and after living with his father for a short time, his father got sick.

“It wasn’t like the best of the best,” Carloss, now 18, said of his early childhood years.

He was placed in foster care — first with foster parents and then in two different group homes.

The one consistent adult figure in his life has been his Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA, Mark Ott.

“It was a blessing for me,” Carloss said of having a CASA. “There’s very few people who will stick with you and make sure you do the right things in life.

“Without him, to be honest, I’d probably be locked up or no telling.”

The Capital Area CASA Association’s 17th annual Casas for CASA playhouse fundraiser will begin later this month. Proceeds go toward supporting CASA’s efforts on behalf of abused and neglected children.

More than 10 years ago, Ott was assigned Carloss’ case, as well as his older brother, Christopher’s. Ott said he worked with the elder brother until he aged out of the foster care system at 18.

Ott’s main responsibility was to advocate in court on behalf of both boys for safe and permanent homes.

But Ott did much more than that, taking them out to eat, skating, bowling and just seeing the sights in Baton Rouge.

“He was kind of a funny guy,” Carloss said of first meeting Ott. “He just took me to places to have fun.”

During his teenage years, Carloss said, Ott was the one who encouraged him to do his best in school.

“He put it in my mind to keep going,” Carloss said.

Carloss did drop out, eventually, but Ott continued to encourage him to earn his GED.

Carloss attended a couple of programs, but never lasted long, he said. “It was just me goofing off.”

With Ott’s persistence, Carloss was accepted into the Carville Job Corps Center. The federal program provides underprivileged youth with education and vocational training.

“This was my last option,” Carloss said.

The two men obviously have developed a strong bond.

“I do way too much, but I don’t care,” said Ott, a retired hospital administrator. “I’ve got the money, and I’ve got the time.”

Two weeks ago, Ott picked Carloss up from Job Corps for the beginning of summer break.

The next day, Ott couldn’t get in touch with the 18-year-old and feared he would get into trouble or worse.

“I’m anxious now. That’s the whole story,” Ott said, at the time tearing up.

Luckily, Carloss emerged a few days later, relatively unscathed but missing his cellphone.

“He’s close now, and I just hope he makes it,” Ott said.

Ott said Job Corps has been a life-changing experience for Carloss.

“To say he got in by the skin of his teeth is to put it mildly,” Ott said.

Ott was the one who brought Carloss to Carville. When they arrived, there were five names on the list but not Carloss’.

The woman behind the count-er told Ott he could write in Carloss’ name because someone else hadn’t shown up, Ott said.

Ott said Carloss has described the Job Corps program as “great,” and was extremely excited when he was able to get his driver’s license.

The program provides the structure Carloss needs, along with three meals a day, recreation and interaction with peers, Ott said.

“He has a place to belong,” Ott said.

Ott said he believes Carloss is hopeful now about the future.

“But he has a strong identification with the culture of not making it,” Ott said.

CASA Executive Director Liz Betz said her volunteers’ main role is to advocate for safe, permanent and stable homes for children in foster care.

“Not many of our volunteers have stayed involved for 10 years,” Betz said of Ott. “You can see when he talks — a couple of times he’s been moved to tears.”

“This could have a good outcome,” Betz added. “He’s (Carloss) so close and so many of our kids don’t have a good outcome. That’s why it’s so nerve-wracking.”

Casas for CASA 2011

WHAT: Capital Area CASA Association’s 17th annual playhouse fundraiser, sponsored by Amedisys Inc., supports CASA’s efforts to speak up for abused and neglected children.

WHEN: Beginning July 23 through Aug. 14, visit the CASA playhouse exhibit at the lower level center court of the Mall of Louisiana.

COST: Raffle tickets for the life-size, custom-built playhouse are on sale for $5 at the mall or the CASA office, 848 Louisiana Ave.

CASA Fiesta

WHAT: The fundraiser features a silent auction, live music and dancing with the Carbon Copy Band, and Mexican cuisine and margaritas, provided by local restaurants.

WHEN: Sunday, July 24, 7:30 to 10 p.m.

COST: Tickets are $50 and will be available at the event or by calling CASA.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call the CASA office at (225) 379-8598.