“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said to an audience in Montgomery, Ala. in 1957.

This quote rings just as true today as we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, service and leadership. If you are looking for a special way to give back to your community, consider becoming a CASA volunteer with Brush Country Court Appointed Special Advocates for special children (CASA) and helping a child in foster care who needs you.

When children are removed from their homes due to evidence of abuse or neglect, they are placed in the child welfare system, sometimes far away from their friends, loved ones and home community. Though they are in foster care due to no fault of their own, they face the risk of negative outcomes such as homelessness, mental health problems and dropping out of school.

“Due to the trauma they have experienced from abuse and neglect and being separated from their families, children in state care are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director of Brush Country CASA. “They need a dedicated advocate to help them while they are in the system.”

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to speak up for a child in foster care. They get to know the child individually, and speak with their foster parents, teachers, therapists and others, to form a holistic picture of the child’s unique needs and circumstances. Brush Country CASA is one of the 72 local CASA programs in Texas that recruits and trains these volunteers to advocate for children.

“By getting to know the child personally and speaking up for their best interest, CASA volunteers make sure the child’s voice is not lost in the chaos of court proceedings,” said Rodriguez.

Last year, 40 CASA volunteers served 176 children in the child welfare system in Brush Country CASA’s service area, but over 100 children still need a volunteer to advocate for their best interests. It is the goal of the 72 CASA programs to grow to serve all the children in the Texas foster care system, so that every child can have a chance at a brighter future.

“We hope for a day when CASA is no longer needed because all children are safe and cared for,” said Rodriguez. “But until then, we need more community members to step up and advocate for these children.”

CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for reunification with the child’s immediate family, but when that is not an option they work to place the child with a loving adoptive family. They also help ensure that the child is surrounded by a network of supportive family members and other adults who will help them thrive and grow, even after CASA and CPS involvement ends.

“At Brush Country CASA, we hope for a future where all people have the same opportunity to live a happy life – and we believe that change starts with our children,” said Rodriguez. “Honor Dr. King’s legacy by becoming a CASA volunteer. Every child has a chance – it’s you.®”

For more information, visit www.becomeacasa.org or call 361.668.3000. The next training class will begin in March.