Published November 20, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
CASA of Bell and Coryell Counties welcomed nine new volunteers into the organization shortly before announcing their separation from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Central Texas, Inc. (CACCT) last Thursday.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers serve as representatives for the more than 500 children in the foster care system in both Bell and Coryell counties after completing 30 hours of training and at least three hours of court observations. As their name suggests, they offer attorneys and judges advice on what legal actions would be best for each child after careful research and observations, a service that often becomes invaluable to ensuring the best interests of the children.
“Those of us who are fortunate enough to be part of the system in which the volunteers are a part are aware of how incredibly valuable they are and how their time, although they are volunteers, is extremely valuable,” Jack Jones, 146th Judicial District Judge, said. “I certainly appreciate you that are filling such an important role for the young people.”
CASA began operating in Bell County 1997 with the support of then-146th District Judge Rick Morris. Coryell County followed suit in 2006 with their own CASA organization. Shortly thereafter, the two organizations merged and joined forces with CACCT.
“That partnership lasted for quite a few years,” Yveta Phillips, President of the Board of Directors for CASA of Bell and Coryell Counties, said. “But, unfortunately, we were losing CASA volunteers and were down to 30. We are two large counties, and we have over 500 children in the foster care system, so 30 volunteers wasn’t going to meet the need.”
The nine volunteers sworn in last week bring the organization’s membership to 84, a large jump from the 30 volunteers working when the organization decided to split from CACCT.
“In April of this year, a decision was made that, in order for the program to grow, we needed to form a public Board of Directors to form a non-profit organization,” Phillips said. “Under this new regime, CASA is growing. We have (more than) doubled the number of volunteers in less than six months, so that is a testament to the commitment the people of these two counties have for us to be a voice for the children who can’t always speak for themselves.”
CASA of Bell and Coryell Counties is currently working under Texas CASA until their independence can be confirmed. They have filed for a 501c3 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Secretary of State and hope to have their non-profit status awarded soon. From there, their goal is to expand the program and serve as many children as possible.
“Today, we are celebrating our independence,” Phillips said. “I am very proud to stand with these ladies and this gentleman as fellow CASA volunteers.”
For more information on CASA or how to volunteer, call (254) 774-1881 or visit TexasCASA.org.