SPECIAL TO THE PICAYUNE
KINGSLAND — The Fourth of July is a holiday that brings together families and friends to celebrate the nation that we all call home. For children in the Texas child welfare system, home can be an unstable place that changes month to month.
Last year, more than 46,600 Texas children were in the child welfare system waiting to be placed into permanent homes. As victims of abuse and neglect, these children were removed from their homes through no fault of their own and placed in the overburdened child welfare system. Stuck in a cycle of moving from foster home to foster home, many children lose hope of ever finding their forever families.
Court appointed special advocate volunteers from CASA for the Highland Lakes Area strive to return hope to these children by moving them through the foster care system and into safe, loving and stable homes as quickly as possible.
“Children with CASA volunteers on average spend less time in foster care, and the sooner children are placed in permanent homes, the sooner they can begin to heal,” said Kristen Harris, executive director of the local CASA organization.
Ideally, CASA volunteers work to reunite children with their family or other close relatives. When these options are not available, volunteers work to find the best possible adoptive families to fit the children’s needs.
Ordinary community members dedicate their time to becoming CASA volunteers. They are professionally trained and appointed by a judge to work with a child or sibling group and the people involved in the children’s lives, including relatives, teachers, social workers and others.
“With the information they gather, CASA volunteers assess the children’s physical, emotional and educational needs. Their recommendations tremendously help the judge overseeing the case to decide the best option for the child,” Harris said.
However, not every child has a CASA volunteer. In Burnet, Blanco, Lampasas, Llano and San Saba counties, there are more than 200 children in the child protection system but only 77 CASA volunteers.
“CASA volunteers help make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children,” Harris said. “We need more members of our community to step up and get involved so every child has a loving place to call home.”
While celebrating Independence Day, consider taking the first step toward becoming a CASA volunteer or helping children in the foster care system find their forever homes. Go to www.highlandlakescasa.com and www.becomeacasa.org for more information.
The next training class is scheduled for August. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.