Child advocate volunteers needed

Ofelia Garcia Hunter, Alice Echo-News Journal

Brush Country CASA officials are seeking volunteers to represent children in court for child abuse or child neglect cases.

“We speak up on their behalf,” Seana Towler, executive director, said. “When the children are removed by (Child Protective Services) we become their eyes and ears.”

Towler said national statistics show every 35 seconds a child is abused and every six hours a child dies from either abuse or neglect.

In Jim Wells County, there were 678 children who were victims last year, Towler said.

That's why the Brush Country CASA is urging individuals to volunteer and help a child or family.

A “Meet and Greet” is set for Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Alice Chamber of Commerce, located at 612 E. Main St.

Towler said the meeting is a way to ask questions about the organization and find out more information on a volunteer's duties.

She said in the last five months, she has had two volunteers from Alice and two from Kingsville.

The volunteer training will be conducted at the Brush Country CASA office at 635 E. King St., Suite 110 in Kingsville.

The training is an eight-day session where volunteers can choose to attend from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. The training is Sept. 24 to 27 and Oct. 1 to 4.

CASA volunteers are everyday people that care about their communities, Towler said.

Some are retired, university students, employed full-time or part-time, single, married and some are grandparents, she said.

Anyone over the age of 21 with a clean CPS and criminal background check can become a volunteer.

She said the volunteers gather information by talking to individuals who are involved in the child's life including teachers, grandparents, lawyers, therapists, doctors, caregivers, relatives and then make recommendations to the judge in court.

“The children we represent have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care by Child Protective Services,” Towler said.

Along with training, volunteers are required to go on a police ride-a-long, CPS ride-a-long and two hours of courtroom observation.

“There is always CASA staff available to assist the volunteers in any aspect of the case,” she said. “CASA volunteers serve only one case at a time.”

She said a case consists of a single family that could be made up of one or more children. CASA volunteers are asked to give about five hours a week of their time.

Towler hopes the “Meet and Greet” session will pique volunteers' interest.

“I would love to have more (volunteers),” she said.