Being in foster care is challenging enough for a child, but it’s even more difficult for youths who are placed in a home with no connection to their culture.
To help those children, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area is seeking more Hispanic and bilingual volunteers.
Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers from the community appointed by judges to serve on behalf of children removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. They are one of the few constants in a child’s life as his or her case moves through the family court system.
It can be a traumatic experience for any child, but especially for those who lose that cultural connection.
“It is not uncommon that a child in foster care will be placed in a home that does not speak their primary language or hold their same cultural beliefs,” said Conrad J. Arriola, the executive director of CASA for the Highland Lakes Area. “They need someone they can relate to, someone who can comfortably and effectively communicate with them and advocate in their best interests.”
When children are taken from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect and placed in foster care, they are not only separated from their families but also often from other parts of their lives such as church, school, and community. What’s more, their foster families might have different cultural values, which can hinder the children from learning and celebrating their heritage.
As September 15 through October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, CASA for the Highland Lakes Area is recognizing and honoring the history, culture, and contributions of the Hispanic community. Officials are seeking volunteers from the Hispanic community as well as bilingual residents to become advocates.
CASA volunteers receive training. Simply referred to as CASAs, they form relationships with their assigned children and become acquainted with everyone involved in their lives, including parents, teachers, and therapists. This helps CASAs make informed recommendations to the court.
The goal is to ensure these children are safe, their needs are met, and their voices are being heard while they are in foster care.
“While all of our volunteers are prepared to advocate for any child, it’s ideal for our volunteers to reflect the children they serve because they may be better able to trust and open up to someone who shares similar customs and experiences,” Arriola said. “We hope it will allow them to form a bond that will result in better advocacy for their unique needs in court, school, and other settings.”
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area serves children in Blanco, Burnet, Llano, Lampasas, and San Saba counties.
“Our volunteers are extraordinary people who speak up for children in foster care,” Arriola added. “This Hispanic Heritage Month and every month this year, we hope you will consider making a difference for children who have been abused or neglected by becoming a CASA volunteer.”
Call 325-388-3440 or visit the CASA for the Highland Lakes Area’s website for more information or to volunteer.