Last week we had our Back to School Party for our CASA Kids. Some were ready to begin a new year, and of course, others were not so eager. I thought of the seasons of life and how quickly they pass. My thoughts lingered on children in care (substitute care, by court order because of abuse or neglect) who need permanency and are going through so much uncertainty, grief, and loss. My heart hurt because so many of these children in our area are having to go through this time without a consistent, safe, trustworthy adult presence in their lives. A CASA volunteer can be that for a child or children. A CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) engages the child, gathers information from everyone involved in the child’s life, constantly assesses the wellbeing of the child and her needs, and reports important information to the court so that better decisions can be made in her best interest. A CASA not only advocates for the child in court but also in his school, his placement, with his family, and with his medical and mental health providers. CASA volunteers catch information that others may miss because they have the time and focus to devote to the child to whom they are appointed. Every child in care should have a CASA volunteer, but in our area at this time less than half of them do.

A CASA volunteer is a dedicated member of the community who is appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of an abused or neglected child in the state’s care. They are people just like you: compassionate, objective, self-motivated individuals who come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Some work full-time, others do not or are retired. All are passionately committed to helping children. A CASA advocates solely for the best interest of the child. They spend significant time getting to know the child, as well as reviewing records and interviewing the child, family members and other relevant persons to determine the facts and circumstances of the child’s situation. The CASA supports the child through tough transitions and keeps working until the child is in a safe, nurturing, permanent home.

CASA in the Heart of Texas is seeking such volunteers now. Children are waiting. The need is urgent. If you are looking to help children truly in need, you should look into becoming a CASA volunteer. As a CASA, you will represent the best interest of a child in need in court. You will work with attorneys and social workers and others to make sure the child is safe while in the foster care system. A CASA volunteer is not a foster parent but can be the voice making a real difference in a critical turning point in a child’s life.

CASA 101: Information Session will be held in Brownwood on Tuesday, September 3rd at 901 Avenue B for those interested in learning more about possibly becoming a CASA volunteer or helping CASA in other ways. CASA in the Heart of Texas is planning the next training class for potential volunteers to begin in September. If interested, contact the CASA office at 325-643-2557, email Joanne@casahot.org or go to www.casabrownwood.org to submit an application. Applications must be received, background checks and interview process completed before an applicant is admitted into training. We look forward to another training class beginning in October or November. Twenty new volunteers are needed by end of year. Is now your time? Every child has a chance – it’s you.