Resolve to make this year a better one for a child who needs you

Brownwood Bulletin
Joanne McCraw

Joanne McGraw is the recruiter/trainer for CASA in the Heart of Texas

"Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. As we are beginning a new year and preparing to honor Dr. King this month, this is a good opportunity to ask this question of ourselves.

Volunteering and helping others has been found to benefit both physical and mental health, and there are a variety of options in our community. If you are looking for a unique and long-term way to make an impact in your community, consider becoming a CASA volunteer, or Court Appointed Special Advocate®, and helping children and families right here in Brown county.

“CASA is more than just your everyday volunteer opportunity,” said Joanne McCraw, Recruiter/Trainer for CASA in the Heart of Texas. “Our volunteers commit their time to make a direct, lasting impact in the life of a child in foster care, giving them a better chance at a happy future.”

Though children in the foster care system are there due to no fault of their own, they face a higher risk than their peers of negative outcomes such as homelessness, mental health problems and dropping out of school.

“Due to the trauma they have experienced and being separated from their families, children in foster care are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said McCraw. “They need a dedicated advocate to look after them and make sure their voice is heard while they are in the child welfare system.”

CASA volunteers, after a screening and interview process, go through pre-service training and then are appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interest of a child or sibling group in foster care. They get to know the child individually and speak to their family of origin, foster parents, teachers, therapists and others to form a holistic picture of the child’s unique needs and circumstances. Their advocacy helps ensure the child’s best interest is heard in court, and that they are safe and supported while in foster care.

CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for reunification with the child’s family of origin and help ensure that the child and their parents have a network of family members and other

adults who will support them even after their time of involvement with foster care. When reunification is not safe or possible, they advocate for the child to live with relatives or a loving adoptive family.

“We know it is best for children when they can live safely at home,” said McCraw. “In fact, we hope for a day when CASA is no longer needed because all children are healthily and happily growing up with their families. Until then, we need more community members to step up and advocate, right here, right now.” CASA in the Heart of Texas’ goal is to grow to serve all the children in the foster care system in Brown, Comanche, and Mills counties.

“Dr. King envisioned a ‘beloved community,’ where all people have the same opportunities to thrive. At CASA in the Heart of Texas, we believe that change starts with children,” said McCraw.

In this New Year, consider becoming a CASA volunteer and making an impact in a child’s life and your own. With all the problems in the world and our own beloved country, this is one way to make a positive difference for children and for your community.

For more information, visit CASAbrownwood.org or call 325-643-2557.