CASA in need of advocates following COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for the Cross Timbers Area is in need of community volunteers.
“Our recruitment has slowed down tremendously because we’re not able to get out and be involved in our community like we all would like to,” said Lily Hutcheson, outreach and development director for CASA for the Cross Timbers Area.
The mission of CASA is to ensure that abused and neglected children secure a permanent, nurturing environment, while working to meet the ongoing needs of the whole child, according to www.casacta.org.
CASA recruits, trains and supports community volunteers who help advocate for the best interests of the children in the court system.
“We take trained volunteers and a judge appoints one of our volunteers to a case and that case can have anywhere from 6 to 9 children. What a CASA does is make sure that each child is treated uniquely and that their individual needs are met while they’re going through this traumatic time in their life,” Hutcheson said. “A lot of people don’t know that that’s what a CASA does but we work with the courts – basically we’re there to help the judge with an informed decision.”
Children can range in age from a newborn to a 17-year-old who is about to age out of foster care.
To become a volunteer, individuals need to be at least 21 years old, be able to pass a background check and they have to complete about 30 hours of extensive training. Due to COVID-19, volunteers are now also required to own a laptop and a webcam to participate in court cases via Zoom.
Hutcheson said CASA for the Cross Timbers Area currently has 29 active advocates and 70 children.
“We’re having to turn down children because we don’t have the advocates to keep up with all these cases that are flooding in,” she said. “We have seen a significant rise in cases since COVID.”
To become a volunteer for CASA, call Hutcheson at 254-434-7583 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are welcoming anybody and everybody who would like to serve the children in our community,” Hutcheson added.