CASA is seeking new volunteers to become Court Appointed Special Advocates in Brown, Comanche, and Mills counties. The next Pre-Service Volunteer Training Class is scheduled to begin July 8th and applications for those interested must be received by June 17th. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) must be at least 21 years of age, able to pass background checks and screening process, willing to participate in the training program consisting of more than 30 hours of classroom and court observation time and more of pre-work/self-study. Court Appointed Special Advocates are certified and sworn-in as officers of the court, providing best-interest advocacy for abused/neglected children, who find themselves removed from their homes and in the temporary conservatorship of Child Protective Services by court order. These advocates provide a safe, consistent, adult presence to children as they go through the system. Sometimes after changes in caseworkers and placements, the face of these children’s CASA is the only face they recognize, providing some sense of stability during a time of excruciating change and uncertainty.
CASAs not only form a relationship of trust with the child to whom they are appointed, but they get to know everyone in the child’s life in order to assess the child’s needs and advocate for that child in their school, in their placement, with their family, with their medical and mental health providers, and finally in the court. CASAs are often considered the eyes and ears of the court, doing independent information gathering, identifying needs, and making recommendations to meet the child’s needs for well-being while in the system as well as seeking permanency for the child with all urgency. Being a CASA requires a somewhat flexible schedule in order to attend court hearings and other meetings that cannot be arranged for the CASA’s convenience. The most important requirement of a CASA is a passion for these children who, through no fault of their own, have suffered abuse and/or neglect and many kinds of trauma-- including the additional trauma of being removed from their home and placed suddenly in a home that is unfamiliar, with people they may not know, and possibly new day care providers or schools, and “siblings.” Even the food may be unfamiliar. Certainly, the rules are different.
Any compassionate heart feels for these children. Some give occasionally to a foster home or agency or buy Christmas gifts for a child off an angel tree, but these children need a voice in the system. A CASA gives these children a voice, makes sure that they are not allowed to fall through the cracks and languish in an overwhelmed system. Being a CASA is a special privilege. A Court Appointed Special Advocate has the privilege of entering the life of a child, a family, crossing over the front porch and through the door where the truth comes to light and lives can be changed.
At this time, there is a shortage of volunteers to be appointed to these children as they enter the system. Many children do not have a CASA to be there for them and advocate on their behalf. “Our vision is for every child coming into the system to have an advocate committed to them until they are in a safe, nurturing, permanent home.” Being a CASA is a commitment which involves a great deal of work. “We liken it to being the Navy SEALS of volunteer work,” stated Michelle Wells, CASA Executive Director, “but the lives of these children are important,” stated McCraw, “…important enough to do this work, important enough to change lives for a lifetime, to break cycles extending for generations. If not done, these children from our community suffer and our communities will suffer as a result. These children are not the state’s children; they are our children.”
If you think you may have the heart to be a fierce advocate for a child, contact CASA at 325-643-2557 or go to www.casabrownwood.org for more information. CASA will be holding the next CASA 101: Information Session in Comanche on June 27th (look for CASA 101: Information Sessions in Comanche on the fourth Thursday of the month for the next several months). Applications are received online on the CASA website listed above. Also look for information on Facebook at CASA in the Heart of Texas. Joanne McCraw, Recruiter/Trainer can be reached at Joanne@casahot.org. If you are not able to be an advocate, you can help CASA get the word out to those who may be. Pass on the information to someone you know would be a fierce advocate. McCraw is actively seeking opportunities to spread the word to clubs, organizations, church groups, and others.
“Every child has a chance – it’s you,” encourages McCraw.