They come from broken homes.
Placed in a system they don’t understand, the only certainty in the lives of many foster children is uncertainty.
Fortunately, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Wise and Jack Counties does provide some stability and consistency in the lives of foster children. But due to an increased caseload, they are in desperate need of additional volunteers.
“We’ve seen our caseload grow dramatically,” said Serene Smith, executive director for CASA of Wise and Jack Counties. “Every volunteer we have is busy on a case. A couple of our volunteers are even carrying two cases. I don’t know if it’s the economy, if it’s an increase in people’s stress level, or if CPS is just getting more aggressive at removing children from dangerous situations at home, but we’re in a time where we are seeing a lot of children in need of removals.”
CASA of Wise and Jack Counties is serving 95 children with 27 volunteers. They have 25 additional cases on deck, each one in need of a volunteer.
“Their role is to act in the best interest of the child, always,” Smith said. “They are the voice of the child.”
If a child is being mistreated or not receiving the services they need in a foster home, it’s up to the CASA volunteer to act on behalf of the child.
“There are so many dynamics when a child is put in foster care,” Smith said. “They might have been put in several different foster homes, have had multiple CPS case workers. They’ve moved from a home in Wise County to a mental institution in Fort Worth to a group home in Waxahachie to a foster home in Denton. Who’s kept up with this child during all this to make sure they’ve gotten the counseling they need, that their paperwork is following them, that they aren’t being overmedicated, that they are doing their homework?
“They’ve been abused and beaten up at home, and now moved into multiple foster homes. Where is the consistency for this child during all this? There is none. The CASA worker is a chance to give the child some consistency in their lives.”
So the children in each case get the attention they need, and the volunteer doesn’t get overwhelmed, CASA normally assigns only one case per volunteer. A single case can have anywhere from one to four children and usually lasts about a year.
“They are the ones who investigate and make sure the child is getting the services they need,” Smith said. “Then they report back to the judge because they are an active part of the child. They make sure they get the support they need. They speak for children who can’t speak for themselves. They are their representative. They go to court for the child.”
CASA volunteers are the only advocates many of these children have ever had.
“It’s a really rewarding opportunity to become involved in the legal system and make a difference in a child’s life,” Smith said.
Volunteers must complete 30 hours of training and undergo a criminal background check.
The next CASA volunteer training session begins at 6 p.m. Monday, June 10, at the Community Church in Runaway Bay. Classes will run 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and will wrap up July 1. Potential volunteers can enroll the day of the first training session.
For more information or to register, contact Smith or volunteer coordinator Jan Files at 940-627-7535. Email Smith at email@example.com or Files at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the website at www.casawise.com.