Child abuse cases will happen with or without Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Yet what CASA for Hunt County can do is provide screened and trained CASA volunteers to the children of these cases. Abused and neglected children, who by no fault of their own land in the foster care system, need a special person to be their voice ... they need someone to speak up for their best interests so they do not languish in the system. In Hunt County, the CASA program serves 100% of the county's children who enter the foster care system. One goal is to make sure every abused child in our county who is placed into the foster care system never knows what it's like to not have a CASA volunteer advocate!
CASA for Hunt County volunteers have conducted hundreds of face-to-face visits with children in foster care. During these months of pandemic when face-to-face visits could not be conducted, the CASA volunteers saw their children through virtual means more often than they normally would. The time spent with these children is so much more than just a visit. It shows the child that there is a caring and reliable adult who will take the time to champion for what's in their best interests. It shows them that they matter.
Behind the scenes, these children have a CASA volunteer who is focused on making sure they are receiving the services they need, including medical, psychological, educational, and social. They have a CASA volunteer who will speak up with concerns and recommendations to the judge.
CASA also helps provide funds for "normal" and beneficial things for these children such as senior portraits, karate classes, uniforms for extra-curricular activities, and sports and summer camps.
Another important factor is the consistency a CASA volunteer provides to the children. Statistics show a child will move 3 to 4 times during the pendency of their case, which means there will be new foster families, new schools, new friends, and maybe even a new CPS caseworker. But the one constant is their CASA.
The number of child abuse cases in Hunt County continue to rise. Two years ago, on any given day, CASA for Hunt County would be serving around 160 children; and now that number has grown to close to 200. Overall this year, CASA for Hunt County will serve over 350 children. Therefore, the continuous need for more CASA volunteers is a reality. With this challenge comes the need to effectively conduct volunteer recruitment, pre-case screening and training, and post-case training and supervision; as well as volunteer retention. Funds are needed to meet these challenges. When the Number One avenue for helping abused children is providing each with a CASA volunteer advocate, CASA for Hunt County wants to stand ready, and not have to get ready, to meet that need.