Enrollment is open for the first training sessions of 2015 to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate and make a difference in the life of a child, and more volunteers are needed.
Former foster youth Justice LaRue, now 20, was appointed a CASA of Central Texas volunteer advocate when she was placed in a shelter in Comal County as a young teenager.
“My CASA was like my rock. Solid, steady, firm. She was always there for me, no matter what, and that is a big deal. She was a constant for me in my life when everyone else was changing,” LaRue said. “People wave you off when you are a teenager. I was mad that people weren’t listening to me and it was unfair. I felt like, how can you, the judge, speak about me and say what is best for me when you don’t really know me? It is important to have an adult step in. That was my CASA, she was my voice.”
CASA of Central Texas advocates for abused and neglected children in the community by recruiting, training, and supporting community volunteers. CASA volunteers are appointed to children who are confirmed victims of abuse or neglect to independently investigate the case and provide recommendations to the family court judge, what is in the best interest of the child. They often serve as the only consistent adult in the child’s life.
“CASA volunteers explain to the child the events that are happening, why they are in foster care, and the roles the judge, attorneys, and caseworkers play. Advocates offer the children what no one else can: consistency and continuity in the midst of all the chaos the children are experiencing.” Executive Director Norma Castilla-Blackwell said. “In the course of a typical case, the child will experience several foster placements, new schools, caseworker turnover and one Advocate. The trust that is built allows the CASA to encourage the children to express their feelings and to feel safe. All the while the advocates remain objective observers.”
More volunteers are needed in Hays, Caldwell, Comal and Guadalupe Counties. Castilla-Blackwell said becoming a CASA volunteer is a way to make a direct impact in your community one child at a time.
“We assign our volunteers to one case at a time, to make sure the children receive the attention they need. But, that means we are only serving as many children as we have volunteers,” she said. “We need more volunteers to reach our goal of serving 100 percent of the children who are currently in the state’s care.”
CASA volunteer advocate LaVonia Williams encourages others to sign up for training.
“I became a CASA to help support children in need of a voice, because I do believe it takes a village,” she said. “It is challenging at times, but seeing the children move past a period of adversity outweighs the challenge. I love being a CASA.”
In 2014, CASA of Central Texas served more than 450 children in Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties but there were still children who did not have the voice of a CASA volunteer. Free training courses start the week of January 12 in both San Marcos and New Braunfels office locations. A Saturday course will begin in February. To apply for training, contact CASA at (512) 392-3578 or (830) 626-2272, or visit www.casacentex.org.
Learn more about CASA at a monthly information session, held the first Wednesday of each month at the New Braunfels CASA office, and the second Wednesday of each month in the San Marcos CASA office, both from noon to 1 p.m.
BONUS: Read the Hays Free Press story about CASA volunteer and Kyle resident, Tracy McGinty