They’re kind of like superheroes. Well, to the children they help navigate through one of the roughest patches of their lives, they are superheroes.
Now, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area is hoping you will join the ranks. You don’t need a cape, just a big heart.
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, is looking for people interested in working with children who are either in Child Protective Services or foster care after being removed from their home or family. It sounds tough, but it’s truly a lifechanging volunteer opportunity.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area is holding a series of informational meetings to share what they are, what their volunteers do, and how people can help.
The meetings, which include lunch, are from noon to 1 PM at the following dates and locations:
- July 10 at Blanco Library, 1118 Main St. in Blanco
- July 11 at Community Resources Center, 300 Avenue N in Marble Falls
- July 17 at Lampasas Chamber of Commerce, 205 US 281 in Lampasas
- July 18 at Rylander Memorial Library, 103 S. Live Oak St. in San Saba
- July 25 at Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk St. in Kingsland
- July 30 at Johnson City Library, 501 N. Nugent Ave. in Johnson City
“The whole idea is to help people understand what CASA is and what we do,” said Diana Tryon, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area volunteer coordinator.
CASA volunteers, often simply referred to as CASAs, undergo several weeks of training and get sworn in by a judge. They are, after all, the “eyes and the ears of the court” on behalf of the children they serve as guardian ad litem. Tryon explained that when CPS removes a child or a group of siblings from their home and family and place them in foster or similar care, the court appoints a “guardian ad litem” or CASA volunteer for that child or sibling group.
The specially trained CASA volunteer then stays on the case until family reunification takes place or the court determines another type of permanency is needed, which could include adoption. Under Texas law, the state has one year to accomplish that.
Tyron said that means a volunteer — or husband-wife team — is committed to that case for that time period, which usually is 8-12 hours of work a month.
These children, however, are not “cases” to the volunteers; they almost become part of the family as many CASAs attend school events, sporting activities, and other things for the kids. During the entire time, the volunteers are monitoring their children’s living conditions, their emotional and physical well-being, and a host of other things that they report back to the court.
“We provide a stable, trustworthy person to be there for these kids when everything else if falling apart,” Tryon said.
Currently, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area serves 243 children. The problem, Tryon said, is there are even more kids in the five-county area CASA for the Highland Lakes Area covers who are in need of a volunteer.
In those situations where a volunteer or CASA staff member isn’t available, the CPS attorney ad litem takes on the role as guardian ad litem as well. This, however, is a less than ideal situation.
“The attorneys already have too much on their plate, so they can’t give the attention to the children like a volunteer can,” Tryon said. “We need more people who are willing to help us. Ultimately, I’ve set a goal of at least twenty-five more volunteers through these information meetings.”
Being a CASA volunteer is much more involved than holding a bake sale, that’s for sure, but it’s an opportunity to “hold a child’s hand” when they need it the most.
Contact Tyron at (325) 388-3440 or firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for one of the upcoming meetings or for more information. You may also contact her if you’re interested in having CASA talk to your group or organization about what they do.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area serves Blanco, Burnet, Llano, Lampasas, and San Saba counties. Go to HighlandLakesCASA.com for more information.