Gainesville Daily Register

March 8, 2013

Federal spending cuts may impact some area agencies

By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer

— This year may be incredibly tough for non-profit agencies in the North Texas area as well as around the country.

Each year funding for non-profits includes both state and federal support, fundraisers and private donations.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is one of the local nonprofit organizations that has experienced cutbacks this year.

According to CASA of North Texas executive director Vicki Robertson, state funding for this year may be cut 57 percent. The loss is especially devastating since state funding is roughly 40 percent of the agency’s total funding.

“The state funding has been depleted so severely but we are ever hopeful that the state will find additional funding to make up the difference,” Robertson said.

Since CASA funding has been cut in each of the past ten years, sequestration — a series of federal spending cuts which went into effect late last week — has not had an additional impact at this time, she noted.

“We may not know what our federal funding will be for this year until our fiscal year is over in September,” Robertson said, adding, “It’s what gives directors and managers gray hair.”

Funding for CASA is not taken out of the tax base on either the state or federal level, she said. The funds are derived from penalties and fines imposed on criminal activity or court decisions such as the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010.

Texas CASA is part of a national volunteer movement that began in 1975, the organization’s website states.  A judge in Seattle decided to follow up on the children in his area whose lives were affected by decisions he makes in his jurisdiction. He started a community volunteer system to act as unbiased advocates to give a voice to abused and neglected children. The Court Appointed Special Advocates provided him with detailed information he needed to safeguard each child’s best interest. The solution he started was to use community volunteers as a "voice in court" for abused and neglected children. These Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) provided him with the detailed information he needed to safeguard the children's best interests . The program was so successful that it was copied around the nation.

The first CASA program in Texas began in Dallas in 1979.  

According to the website, a 2008 Judicial Survey found that 97 percent of Texas judges responding reported that the information CASA provides is beneficial to their decision making and 94 percent said that CASA volunteers provided an opportunity for a better, more positive outcomes for children.

Fundraisers are also an important funding source for CASA agencies.

“One of our largest fund raising events is the Cowboy for CASA fundraiser we have in July of each year.” Robertson said. “It’s a very well attended event with barbeque, music and an auction. We’ll have more details on this shortly.”

For more information on CASA contact the local office at 665-2244.

“We hope that full funding will be provided for us this year so we can meet all of our needs,” Robertson added. “We sometimes feel like the people of Israel who had to make the same required bricks for the pharaoh while given less straw and mud.”