CASA for the Highland Lakes Area is seeking volunteers to advocate for foster children who have been removed from their homes as a result of abuse or neglect.
“We have currently 254 children in our care,” said CASA Executive Director Brittany Grubbs. “There are 200 who have volunteers and 54 do not.”
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Volunteers advocate for foster children by conducting home and school visits, speaking with attorneys and state Child Protective Service workers, and checking on the child’s medical and dental needs for a 12- to 16-month time frame.
During 2020, the number of children facing home removal within the Highland Lakes increased by 69 percent compared to the previous year, Grubbs said. By Aug, 19, 2020, the organization had 50 more cases than it did on the same day in 2019.
Supervisors are tasked with extra cases when there aren’t enough advocates to cover the organization’s needs.
“We have so many great volunteers that stepped up and took on more cases during (the height of the pandemic), but there’s such an increase in cases that our supervisors are overloaded with cases,” Grubbs explained.
To become a volunteer, individuals must:
- be at least 21 years old;
- pass both a criminal and CPS background check;
- commit to a year of advocacy;
- complete online training and 10-15 hours of in-person training;
- and participate in in-house interviews conducted by staff.
Once volunteers successfully accomplish all prerequisites, they will be sworn in by Judge Cheryll Mabray, the judge for the Child Protection Court of the Hill Country.
Those interested in volunteering can fill out an online application on the CASA for the Highland Lakes Area website.
In the ever-changing foster system, advocates provide a sense of stability for the children with whom they work, Grubbs said.
“When they’re in foster care, (children’s) lives are always changing, but their CASA never does,” Grubbs said. “(Volunteers) are getting to be part of a community and then help make a difference in a child’s life that may not have anyone else.”