by Babs Cape
Think: A child in great need. Think: An Advocate. Think: CASA.
If every child in Williamson County who is experiencing abuse or neglect, who has no real home, whose future is dependent on non-dependable people– if every one of them had a CASA, this would be a better world!
Families are torn apart and children suffer from the upside-down world around them.
- Where will they go to be safe?
- Who can take care of their helplessness?
- How can they hope for a bright future?
A Court Appointed Special Advocate, a CASA volunteer steps in for children who are in harm’s way, without a voice, giving them the support they need to weather these storms.
Seeds of Strength has been and continues to be on a mission to make an impact on these needs in Williamson County; thus, CASA has been our grantee multiple times. SoS has provided funds for support staff, recruitment and training of volunteers who will take on a child or a young person and their siblings to get them through the mire of bureaucracy. Attorneys, therapists, doctors, teachers, Child Protection System (CPS), foster parents, childcare providers, and judges all are needed to make a child safe. The mission is for a child to be safe and, ultimately, have a safe, permanent home.
The number of children in need grows. So, the need for trained and dedicated CASA volunteers is growing. Note: CPS workers have multiple cases. CASAs have one at a time. Part of the challenge is to match the child and the volunteer for the best fit.
CASA is rich with leadership in CEO Marissa Austin and her team. With our current grant of $24,000, CASA will have money for a Director of Recruitment and Education and Training, furthering the effort to meet CASA’s goal of serving 100% of our community’s children in need. The project is to recruit 65 prospective volunteers for training. In so doing, 82 more children can be served in Williamson County’s Child Protection System
The heroes in this story are the volunteers who commit to a minimum of 18 months on a case. Training includes more than 30 hours over a 6-week period and 12 hours of continuing education. One must have references, a background check, in-person interviews and ultimately be sworn in by a judge. And one needs compassion, a dedication to understanding the needs, and the strength to help these children have a safe place, physically and emotionally.
On the site visit (virtual, of course), our Compliance Liaison, Katrina King, and our visiting members were spell-bound listening to volunteer Kris Hooks tell of her experiences and feelings about working on three cases. The volunteers are HEROES.
A volunteer will learn everything possible about the child and talk with everyone in the child’s life. The volunteer wants to know the child, his/her fears and hopes, and how the child feels. And the volunteer spends time with the child—letting him/her be a child!
All of this is to be an effective voice in the Courtroom to ensure the child’s best interest is considered.
In this past year, 48% of the kids have gone back to their families and 38% to other family members. Part of the job is to counsel the family members so that reuniting is possible. With only 136 volunteers, 282 children have been served.
One foster parent said, “Every child needs a CASA or they can be lost in the chaos with no voice.”
Because you are a part of Seeds of Strength, you are helping these children. That is a good thing.