By Lee Ann Deal
CASA of Bell and Coryell Counties
On Satruday, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Bell and Coryell Counties completed their most recent training of volunteers to become CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Coryell County Judge Cheryl Mabray conducted the swearing in ceremony for the group of ten new CASAs which included teachers, counselors, homemakers and retirees.
CASA volunteers are adults in our community that receive thirty hours of training plus at least three hours of court observation in order to work with and advocate for abused and neglected children. The CASA volunteer is assigned a child or group of siblings and provides the judge with carefully researched background information regarding each child in order to help the court make a sound decision about that child’s future. “Because the CASA volunteer makes a commitment to work with the child throughout their experience in the court system, which can be up to 12-18 months,” said Lee Ann Deal, Interim Program Director for CASA, “they are sometimes the only constant in that child’s life.”
Research suggests that children who had been assigned a CASA volunteer tend to spend less time in court and less time within the foster care system than those who do not have CASA representation. Judges have observed that CASA children also have better chances of finding a permanent home than non-CASA children. “Having been a caseworker for several years,” says Yajaira Velez, a supervisor for CASA Volunteers. “I have seen the relationship that CASAs develop with the children they work with; and that relationship is often what gives that child hope. It is also what helps the CASA determine the best course of action to ensure the best possible future for that child.”
The 30-hour training includes a better understanding of what causes child abuse and neglect; how our laws protect children; working with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures; family dynamics, strengths and weaknesses; the negative impact of substance abuse/addiction; a child’s needs for optimum development; communication; investigation and reporting to the courts. “Cultural awareness is of special interest to our volunteers,” said Bonita Hancock, supervisor of CASA Volunteers, “because they learn very quickly that it is difficult to have a positive outcome without understanding the people you are working with – children, parents, grandparents, other relatives, friends, etc.”
“CASA of Bell and Coryell Counties now has a total of 74 volunteers serving over 120 children,” reports Deal, “ but there are four times that many children in Bell and Coryell Counties needing an advocate. Our next training will be held the first two weeks of November, and we would love to add another 20 volunteers from that training.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact the CASA office at 2820 W. Avenue O, Suite B-2 in Temple, phone 254-774-1881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.