CASA in the Heart of Texas will have CASA 101, an information session, for individuals who are interested in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, February 22.
    This session will cover information about the role and mission of CASA as well as information about what specifically a CASA Volunteer does, including the training requirements, time commitment involved and skills needed. CASA 101 would be beneficial to
anyone interested in the possibility of becoming a CASA volunteer.
    The information session will
be held at the Family Services Center, 901 Ave. B in Brownwood.
     Joanne McCraw, the CASA recruiter/trainer, would appreciate knowing if you plan to attend, although an RSVP is not a requirement.
    “CASA stands for ‘Court Appointed Special Advocate,’ said McCraw. “These advocates make
such a difference in the lives of children from our area, who through no fault of their own, are removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.”
     A CASA volunteer is typically appointed at the first court hearing after a child is removed. They begin to develop a relationship with the child or children of the case. They investigate the child’s situation and are
a voice for the best interest of the child in court and can, in fact, advocate for the child in the school, at daycare, with the placement, and with other professionals involved.
     The mission of CASA is to train and support quality volunteers who speak out for the best interests of abused and neglected children in court in an effort to find each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.
    A child with a CASA volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home, more likely to be adopted, half as likely to re-enter foster care, substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, more likely to have a plan for permanency.
    Children with CASA volunteers get more help while in the system and are more likely to have a consistent, responsible adult presence in their lives. Volunteers typically spend significantly more time with the child than a paid guardian ad litem. Children with CASA volunteers are less likely to be bounced from home to home while in the system; they do better in school, and fare better in a variety of other ways.
    “With these volunteers, it’s not just the appointment that is special, it is them,” said McCraw.
    While the goal of CASA is to have a CASA volunteer for each and every child taken into care,
there are not currently enough volunteers; and many children are not afforded the attention of such an advocate. In general, more big-hearted adults in our area are needed to step up and take on this role.     “These children, although many people are not aware of them, should not be invisible,” McCraw said. “They are here in our community, going to school with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They have not only gone through the trauma of
abuse/neglect but were further traumatized by being removed from their homes, their families, their schools oftentimes, their neighborhood friends and find themselves trying to cope with all the anxiety-producing unknowns of which their world is now made up.”
    Although at least half of the children removed are boys, men of CASA are still few in number. “I
am calling on men to rise to the mission,” said McCraw. “These children need you to fight for them, to be a fierce advocate. Men of CASA help build a better system, protect the vulnerable, make clarity out of chaos, lead cases forward. Men of CASA show people what a good man is.”
    People are needed to meet needs by being foster families, supporting foster families, getting involved with CASA as volunteers. Perhaps there are families who are not ready to foster but would like to help, maybe by starting as a CASA volunteer, learning the system and working in it on that level.
     “I think there are churches needing to know about these avenues for ministry. If your church would be willing to have me, I would love to talk to you about these opportunities,” said McCraw. “Our children come in all colors and ethnic backgrounds; our volunteers should, too.”
    McCraw is available and would be happy to speak about CASA at service clubs, churches, workplaces who encourage volunteerism, and other organizations.
    The next Pre-Service Volunteer Training Class will be starting March 19, 2018. Interested individuals may apply on CASA in the Heart of Texas’ website. References and background checks are required and take some time to process.
    You may contact McCraw at 325-643- 2557 for more information. Find CASA in the Heart of
Texas on Facebook and at     “If you can answer this call, do it now,” McGraw said. “Children are waiting for you.”