Special to the Register
For almost a year, Court Appointed Special Advocates, a local non-profit organization with the mission of providing advocacy for abused and neglected children within the child welfare (CPS) system, has spread the word that the program is close turning children away. Now, what CASA feared has become reality, as CASA is now turning children away because they lack sufficient volunteers and staff to meet the need.
According to CASA of North Texas’ director, Vicki Robertson “For 13 years, our CASA program has been one of only six CASA programs in the state that has consistently provided advocates for every child in our county who needs a CASA volunteer. Today, we’re no longer in that group. We are truly at our capacity. We continue to recruit and train volunteers, but there simply haven’t been enough volunteers to meet the increased number of children who need an advocate. We just swore in a group of five volunteers, which is wonderful, but we need 15 more today because children are coming into foster care every week. We simply don’t have advocates for them and those of us on staff are covering all of the cases we’re allowed to. It breaks my heart that in the past couple of weeks, we’ve had to turn away children because we simply don’t have the manpower to give them what they need.
This local CASA program provides advocates for an average of 100 Cooke County children who’ve suffer abuse or neglect at such a level that it is necessary to take them from their homes and place them into the protective custody of the state (foster care).
In 2013, this number has risen to 130 with no indication this trend will stop in the near future. “I don’t have to tell anyone in this county that there are problems with drugs here in this county,” said Robertson. “When you read about an ugly raid for guns or drugs or other illegal behaviors, there is a good chance that children were living too close to those situations. The public rarely sees these victims, but they exist and more are entering foster care every day.”
“I’ve said for years that Cooke County people truly care about one another. I’ve marveled for years at how Cooke County folks step up to help one another when they see a need. I think for us the problem is that folks just don’t know how many kids are affected right now,” Robertson said.
Being a CASA volunteer takes only a passion for the safety and well-being of CASA’s children who come from some hard places and 10-15 hours a month, most of which can be made to fit into the volunteer’s schedule. Every four months hearings and case related meetings are required, which are not set to the volunteer’s schedule, so some flexibility is required. Beyond that, a person need only be over 21 with clear criminal and CPS backgrounds and have transportation.
“I run into people all of the time who say ‘someday I’m going to get involved for CASA’s kids’… I really hope that people who’ve thought that before will give strong consideration to getting involved now,” Robertson said.
Anyone interested in working for CASA’s children, may contact the CASA office at 309 S. Commerce, Gainesville, by telephone at 940-665-2244 or check CASA websites at www.casant.org or www.becomeacasa.org.
Special to the Register
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