When it comes to neglected or abused children in foster care, the need is great but help is lacking.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Wise and Jack Counties currently is serving more than 100 children in 54 cases – mostly in Wise County. But they have only 26 active volunteers to handle that caseload.
“We’ve been running at over 100 children for months and months and months, and we just don’t have enough volunteers to serve all of them,” said Serene Smith, the agency’s executive director. “We’re desperately needing volunteers to come in and take these cases.”
The number of children served has steadily increased over the past few years, from 120, to 143 to 167 last year.
It has gotten to the point where CASA is having to choose who will be assigned an advocate.
“They all need somebody,” Smith said. “When you look at the cases you can’t say, ‘Well this one does and this one doesn’t,’ because each one needs an advocate to stand up for them and make sure they have someone saying, ‘This child needs counseling,’ or ‘This child needs a better placement,’ or checking on the home where they are at. Our volunteers do such a great job.”
CASA volunteers conduct independent investigations into their child’s case, gathering as much information as they can in order to be an advocate for that child. Volunteers regularly visit not only the children, but also their parents to make sure they are making the needed changes in order to provide a safe home for the children.
A case will usually last 12 to 18 months, but Smith said the bonds created between CASA volunteers and the children they serve can last a lifetime.
“A lot of our volunteers are being invited to graduations,” Smith said. “That’s cool when that kid says, ‘I really want you at my graduation.’ They have important things coming up in their lives, and the volunteer is one of the first people they call to say, ‘Can you come?'”
The ultimate goal is for the parents to make the needed changes in their lives so their children can be reunited with them.
“It’s really nice when you see a family get back together,” Smith said. “That’s the neatest thing in the world when you have a parent come back to you and say, ‘thank you.’
“It happens. They figure out, ‘I screwed up, and I really want to get my kid back. They are the most important thing in my world.’ And they put their life back together.”
Smith said a back room at the CASA office is being remodeled to serve as a safe, secure visitation room for parents and their children.
April 3 – Volunteer training; register before Friday, March 28, by calling 940-627-7535.
April 7-10 – Volunteer Appreciation Week
April 19 – Glitzy Girls Trailer Park fundraising event on the Decatur Square
April 25 – Benefit clay shoot
For more information on being a volunteer or the fundraising events, call 940-627-7535.