Special to the Register
Four volunteers, staff and board members from CASA of North Texas joined about 300 children’s advocates from around the state at the Texas Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 13, to speak up for children in the foster care system.
Last year, more than 47,000 children were in the care of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services because of evidence of abuse and neglect. The number of children in care is expected to increase to nearly 50,000 by 2015.
Representatives from CASA of North Texas joined other child advocates from around the state to advocate for funding and reforms of the child welfare system.
“Our volunteers speak up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in our courts,” said Vicki Robertson, executive director of CASA of North Texas. “We wanted to make sure these children’s voices are also heard at the Capitol.”
“We believed it was necessary to go to Austin and share stories about the children we stand up for who have suffered in ways we don’t want to think about. We want our elected officials to know that there are vulnerable children, more than half who are under the age of 6, who will be directly affected by their decisions,” said Robertson. “The safety of our children must be a priority for our state.”
“We understand that legislators have difficult choices to make for our state,” said Robertson. “But we think that at a time when every eight minutes a child is abused in the state of Texas we have an obligation to protect our children and see that they are not traumatized further by the system that is supposed to protect them.”
“Legislators should invest in high-impact programs like CASA, which not only are good for children, but are good for taxpayers. CASA has a track record of making sure children get the services they need while in foster care and helping children move through the foster care system and into safe loving homes as quickly as possible,” said Robertson.
“The abused and neglected children that CASA represents deserve a voice at the Capitol,” said Vicki Spriggs, chief executive officer of Texas CASA, a network of 69 local CASA programs that serve foster children in 206 Texas counties.
“In partnership with CASA of North Texas, we are speaking up for foster children’s needs and adequate funding to meet those needs – enough caseworkers, services, and CASA volunteers to keep children safe and placed in permanent homes as soon as possible," said Spriggs.
Local CASA program volunteers and staff met with Representative Drew Springer and Senator Craig Estes to share concerns about funding for foster children and CASA programs.
CASA of North Texas recruited, trained and supported 48 volunteers who spoke up in court for 112 children in foster care in Cooke County last year.
CASA volunteers are specifically trained to advocate for children in foster care. Volunteer advocates get to know the child and speak to everyone involved in the child’s life, including their family members, teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers and others.
The information they gather and their recommendations help the judge overseeing the cases make informed decisions. CASA volunteers commit to a child until the case is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.
Statewide, 7,260 CASA volunteers and programs advocated for 22,970 foster children last year. Only half the children in the Texas foster care system have CASA volunteers. 9 local children who need a CASA do not have one as of today.
For more information about CASA, visit www.BecomeACASA.org or www.casant.org or call 940-665-2244.
The next information session about becoming a CASA volunteer will begin in early March.