Court Appointed Special Advocates are important volunteers who advocate for children who have entered the foster care system due to abuse or neglect.
CASA was first established nationally in Seattle in 1976.
“David Soukup, a superior court judge in Seattle, became greatly concerned about making decisions that had significant impact on dependent children’s futures, so he created a plan to train and appoint community volunteers to research the best interests of children in cases of abuse and neglect,” said Judy Walker, executive director of CASA for the Cross Timbers Area. “He needed to be sure he was getting all the facts and that the long-term welfare of children was represented, so he depended on these volunteers to make informed recommendations to the court about getting children in safe, permanent homes as soon as possible. Today, that judge’s idea has evolved into one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country.”
In the Cross Timbers area, the seed for CASA was planted at a community leader meeting by Lore Dietrich on Oct. 18, 2001 with 16 people in attendance.
By April 11, 2002, the program board was formed and bylaws were drafted. Articles of incorporation of CASA for the Cross Timbers area was filed in the office of the secretary of state of Texas on May 7, 2002.
“CASA had come into full existence in Erath County. Office space was rented and the newly hired executive director assumed her role with an anticipated budget of $40,800. Volunteers were recruited and the first two were sworn in by Judge Don Jones in January 2003. The program expanded into Bosque and Hamilton counties in early 2004 and into Eastland County in early fall 2005,” Walker said.
Dietrich served on the planning committee, was an officer on the first board and was one of the two first volunteers to be trained and sworn in to serve the foster children in Erath County. She has remained active in CASA CTA until last month.
“CASA CTA has grown from a volunteer-staffed organization to an important part of the family court system staffed by four dedicated employees along with a volunteer corps of more than 30,” Walker added.
In 2018, CTA served 160 children in 102 cases. In 2017, CTA served 196 children in 110 cases. For 2019, CTA has served 99 children in 65 cases.
Walker encourages the Cross Timbers area to volunteer to become a CASA advocate.
“Based on the numbers as of today, we anticipate the number we will serve this year to be high. This greatly increases our need for volunteers,” Walker said.
CASA volunteers get to know the child and gather information from everyone involved in his or her daily life including family members, foster parents, teachers, doctors and social workers. CASA volunteers use the information they gather to report to the judge, advocating for the child’s physical and emotional needs.
In order for someone to become a CASA volunteer, they must be able to pass extensive background checks, be willing to commit to at least one year, be effective communicators, both orally and in writing and be willing to participate in an in-depth training program.
To learn more about CASA, call 254-965-6610 or visit casacta.org.