April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month; CASA in the Heart of Texas is raising awareness of the need for more dedicated members of the community to step up and become Court Appointed Special Advocates and help end child abuse and neglect through supporting children and their families.
Court Appointed Special Advocates 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 very difficult time in their lives. The fact that they give of their time and represent an objective, community viewpoint is one of the things that makes their input so valuable.
“Our Advocates’ first priority is to keep families together whenever safe and possible,” said Michelle Wells, Executive Director of CASA in the Heart of Texas. “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 Advocates 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.
Locally, CASA in the Heart of Texas served 104 children in the foster care system in their service area (Brown, Comanche, and Mills counties) in Fiscal Year 2020, which means there were 240 children who did not have an Advocate through CASA by their side. This April, consider stepping up to make a difference by becoming an Advocate through CASA in the Heart of Texas.
“There is always a need for more Advocates,” said Joanne McCraw, Recruiter/Trainer. “By becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate, 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, Advocates 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—keeping a child connected to their home community.
“We at CASA in the Heart of Texas always hope for the day when CASA, foster care and a national month dedicated to child abuse prevention are no longer needed because all children are growing up safe, secure and supported with their families,” said McCraw. “Until then, we will continue to seek to add more members of the community to our growing movement so that we can provide an Advocate for every child who needs one.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you see abuse, report it to 1(800)252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org. If a child’s life is in danger, call 911. For more information on CASA in the Heart of Texas or about becoming an Advocate, visit www.CASAbrownwood.org, call (325)643-2557, or email Joanne@casahot.org.
CASA staff members Meagan Reed, Michelle Wells, and Joanne McCraw sport their blue on Go Blue Day and encourage community members to wear their blue each Friday this month to show support for Child Abuse Prevention.