Volunteers needed for CASA foster care children in JWC: Here's how to help.

Robin Bradshaw
Alice Echo News Journal

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the non-profit organization Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is in need of volunteers to help provide support for children in areas serving Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy and Kleberg Counties.

This month, the organization is raising awareness of the need for more dedicated members of the community to become CASA volunteers and help end child abuse and neglect, through supporting children and their families. 

CASA volunteers are everyday people from all walks of life who are recruited and specially trained to advocate for children in foster care and provide a consistent, reliable adult presence for them during a difficult time in their life.

“Our volunteers’ main focus is to keep families together whenever safe and possible,” said Nicole Ortegon, outreach director of Brush Country CASA. “Foster care is only a temporary solution to the problems at hand. We need to create long-term support networks that work to care for families, make reunification a possibility, and help break the cycle for the next generation.”

CASA volunteers are assigned to one child or sibling group to advocate for their best interest in court, in school and in other settings.

CASA is unique in its support for advocacy for foster children because the organization is not bound to the specific laws and policies that Child Protective Services (CPS) and court-appointed attorneys adhere to. Their goal is to focus on the best needs of the children through specialized training and a strong support system that is more aligned with the best interest of the child instead of what the child may want in a court setting, Ortegon added. 

CASA volunteers are assigned to one child or sibling group to advocate for their best interest in court, in school and in other settings. They get to know the child and everyone involved in their life, such as their parents and other family members, foster parents, therapists, caseworkers and teachers, in order to develop a realistic picture of the child’s unique situation. They engage those important to the child and family in order to build a network of support around them so that the family has access to support and resources after the case ends. They make recommendations to the judge overseeing the child’s case, with the goal of ensuring that the child is safe and the family has the resources, support and healthy relationships needed to heal.

In 2020, Brush Country CASA served 167 children in the foster care system in the service area. There are still 77 children who need someone to advocate for them. 

“There is always a need for more CASA volunteers,” Ortegon said. “By becoming a volunteer, you can take your efforts beyond just awareness, and do your part to help support children and families in crisis right here in our community.”

When reunification is not a possibility for the children they serve, CASA volunteers work to find others that can provide a positive, healthy and loving environment. These can include relatives, friends or other adults that are important in the child’s life with all efforts to keep a child connected to their home community.

Statistics:

CASA currently has 39 volunteers for the area-served counties. Of the 39 volunteers, 10 of them are from JWC. CASA would like to increase the number of advocates in JWC by 10 in 2021. In 2020, CASA volunteers served 68 percent of the children in foster care. The primary goal is to reach and serve 100 percent. 

Requirements: 

Must be 21 years old or older

Clear Criminal & CPS Background Checks (FREE)

32 hours of training (FREE)

2 hours of Courtroom Observation

Volunteer Training:

6 Classes 3 hours each plus pre-work which is done online.

Training classes are typically held on Tuesdays, and Thursdays at a time that is convenient for the potential volunteer.

Classes may be held in person or via zoom depending on the comfort level of the potential volunteer. In-person training classes are held in Kingsville and in Alice. For individuals residing in our other counties, CASA will seek a facility to hold training in the potential volunteer's town for their convenience.

Information Sessions:

Information Sessions are held every Wednesday at 12 pm via Zoom. The information session sessions typically last about 45 minutes. Potential Volunteers must register in advance by using this link:https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0uce6hqDsjGdFrOK-C4VEwrAm6wA5MW6es