The annual Boots and Bags Bingo next month will raise funds for two nonprofit organizations that help children — the Heart of Texas Children’s Advocacy Center and CASA in the Heart of Texas.
The event, with a Mad Hatter theme, will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Aldersgate Enrichment Center in Early.
There will be a “Mad” hat contest and, as in previous years, there will be a live and silent auction, giveaways and refreshments. Tickets are $35 each, and admission includes 10 game cards plus entry into a bonus drawing.
For tickets, call the CAC at 325-646-7148 or CASA at 325-643-2557. Tickets can also be bought online at www.casabrownwood.org/news/events.

Children’s Advocacy Center

The Children’s Advocacy Center, or CAC, opened in Early in September 2012. The center’s Facebook page describes it as “a child-focused center that coordinates the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of child abuse.”
The CAC is a huge help to law enforcement, prosecutors and child victims — as well as their families — of sexual and physical abuse. Services include forensic interviews of child victims conducted by Christy Robinson, the CAC’s executive director and forensic interviewer.
The interviews are recorded and enable child victims to give a single account of what happened to them rather than having to repeat the account to multiple people in law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices, Robinson and law enforcement investigators said.
“It gives children a voice,” Robinson said. “We follow the family until the case is closed.”
The CAC provides numerous other services to children and their families, and without the CAC in Early, families — and investigators — would be forced to travel to a CAC in another county.
The Heart of Texas CAC has conducted 575 forensic interviews since June 2013, Robinson said. The CAC serves Brown, Coleman, Mills, Comanche, Menard and McCulloch counties.
“They’re phenomenal at what they do,” said Brownwood police detective Robert Lee, who investigates crimes against children and juvenile crimes. “They’re trained to interview kids to know how to ask questions to hear the story from the kids’ view.
“It’s very beneficial because the child’s only interviewed one time and doesn’t have to relive the experience over and over and over.”
CASA in the Heart of Texas

CASA volunteers, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, serve as the courtroom voice for children who have been removed from their homes, seeking the best possible solution for each case.
“One of the most important roles that CASA plays is that we’re an unbiased third party,” CASA advocate trainer Alex Garcia said. “When a child is removed from their home by CPS, the state has an attorney, the parents have an attorney and the children have attorneys, also. CASA comes in and plays a role that’s called the guardian ad litem.”
A guardian ad litem, Garcia explained, is meant to represent the child and make sure his or her needs are being met in foster care. “We’re assigned guardians of the child for the case,” he said. “I guess in a way you could say that we’re the child’s voice in the courtroom.”
 The goal of a CASA volunteer is to find a safe and permanent home for each child or sibling group and to make sure all the child’s needs are met, whether physical or emotional, CASA said in an earlier press release.
Garcia said CASA volunteers serve as the “eyes and ears” of the court during the process, talking with teachers, parents, doctors, foster parents and, of course, children to gain a third-party view of the child’s circumstances and make recommendations to the court.