Every year, the state of Texas removes thousands of children from their homes because of abuse or neglect. These victimized children are drawn into an overburdened child welfare system that is hard pressed to address their individual concerns. Eventually, they end up in court. CASA is a nonprofit partnership that trains and supports thousands of volunteer advocates to work with these children as they journey through the court system toward safe, loving, permanent homes. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are appointed by judges to advocate for the child in court.
The CASA volunteer advocate is frequently the most consistent person in the child’s life during their involvement with the court. Golden Crescent CASA serves the needs of abused and neglected children in Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, Refugio, and Victoria counties. The Golden Crescent CASA mission is to utilize trained volunteers, appointed by the court, to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and assist in placing them in nurturing, permanent homes.
We speak for children who can’t speak for themselves. About CASA Concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children’s lives without sufficient information, a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. This Seattle program was so successful that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. Eventually in 1990, the U. S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act.
Golden Crescent CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) was established in 1995 to provide trained community volunteers to advocate in the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in the court system. Today, Golden Crescent CASA serves as Guardian ad Litem for children in foster care in Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, Refugio, and Victoria counties. Each Court Appointed Special Advocate focuses on the child’s best interest through services, treatment and placement.
These sworn child advocates are given constant support and guidance by professional staff as well as training in child development, communications and cultural competency skills. The strength of the CASA program lies in providing care and support on a one-to-one basis throughout the court process, allowing the child and volunteers to develop a trusting, and nurturing relationship. Nationwide, the CASA program has evolved into one of the largest volunteer organizations in the country with more than 900 programs in operation, at least one in every state; In Texas in 2007, 4,928 CASA volunteers advocated for 20,509 children in 202 counties.
Golden Crescent CASA has seven staff members. Income sources include: United Way Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) Private donations and fundraising Assorted grants License Plate Fund Golden Crescent CASA is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of community members and an Advisory Board including judges, attorneys, mayors and city council members and other interested citizens. Need for CASA the facts: A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds Child abuse is the #1 killer of preschool age children Almost 5 children die every day as a result of child abuse.
More than 75% are 4 years old or younger In 2009, 40,126 of Texas children were victims of abuse and neglect. On any given day in the Golden Crescent CASA eight county region, a child can be removed from their parents’ care and placed in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect. Stripped of all that is familiar to them, often separated from their siblings and without the comfort of their friends, they spend too much of their childhood being shuffled from group home to group home, foster placement to foster placement, having to adjust to new schools and new faces with every move.
The system designed to care for them and adequately provide for their future is overburdened with too many children. Social workers carry between 30 and 50 cases and each juvenile court judge is responsible for making life-changing decisions for over 700 children. Additionally, more than 87% of the children referred to CASA have been in the system for more than 6 months–and some much, much longer. For those kids who “age-out” or emancipate from foster care at age 18, the outlook is quite bleak.
National statistics reveal that within 18 months, 50% have not graduated from high school and are unemployed, a third end up in jail and a quarter become homeless. Children who have been abused are 30% more likely to commit violent crimes as adults and are about 33% more likely to abuse their own kids. CASA Difference Fortunately, CASA volunteer advocates are appointed by the Juvenile Court to serve as advocates and mentors for abused children going through dependency court proceedings.
Unlike social workers, therapists, and attorneys who juggle large caseloads and rarely have time to focus on a single child, CASA volunteer advocates work with only one child at a time and often become the most important person in that child’s life. CASA volunteer advocates can be the difference between success and failure in a child’s life. By simply listening, encouraging, guiding and speaking up for a child, CASA volunteers help these vulnerable children and teens to reach their full potential.
Sometimes it is just allowing a child to feel cared about for the first time, and sometimes it is helping to find a loving, permanent home for a child. Clearly, the combination of consistent mentoring and advocacy for a child’s needs results in a much greater chance that these kids will achieve a bright, successful future. Goals and Mission Our main goal is that every child who needs a CASA advocate has a CASA advocate. We depend on the ongoing support of the community to accomplish this. We currently are serving 213 kids in 112 cases and only 21 volunteer advocates to represent 21 of the 112 cases.
Mission Statement The Golden Crescent CASA mission is to utilize trained volunteers, appointed by the court, to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and assist in placing them in nurturing, permanent homes. Volunteer Advocates CASA volunteer advocates are ordinary men and women from all walks of life, education levels, and ethnic backgrounds who volunteer to serve as an advocate to a child or sibling group. A CASA volunteer advocate is a trained volunteer who speaks for children who are brought before the court.
Volunteer advocates are committed and they can make a difference in the life of one child. Social workers and attorneys are generally assigned to work with many children at a time. The CASA volunteer, on the other hand, is usually involved with only one child at a time, and therefore has considerable time to devote to the child. Time and attention translates into more complete information being provided to the court. CASA volunteer advocates serve as a resource for the Judge by thoroughly researching the background of each assigned case; represents the child’s best interest; and acts as an expedient and permanent conclusion.
CASA Volunteer Advocates may offer the only stable relationship these children experience as they move from foster homes to permanent placement. CASA Volunteer Advocates speak for the best interests of the child after research, review, and, most importantly, learning the wishes of the child. CASA Volunteer Advocates are ordinary people who are committed to standing up for the “best interests” of abused or neglected children. CASA Volunteer Advocates are thoroughly trained in courtroom procedure, social services, juvenile justice system and the special needs of these vulnerable children.
CASA Volunteer Advocates are appointed by judges to be a voice for these children in court. The result is that a child is placed into a safe, loving home where he or she can thrive. Be Informed About CASA Every seven minutes a child is abused or neglected in Texas. Every year thousands of Texas children are removed from their homes because of severe abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. Child abuse cases continue to rise at a staggering rate. Golden Crescent CASA Statistics As of Jan. 15, 2013 Active Advocates:| 75 assigned to cases|.
Current Cases:| 119 (44 volunteer advocates needed)| Current children:| 229| Advocates in training:| 5| | | | | | | | | Cases Closed| (11/15/-1/15)| 12 cases, 27 children| Cases Opened| (11/15-1/15)| 8 cases 15 children| | | | | | | | | County Breakdown:| | | | COUNTY| CASES| KIDS| | Calhoun| 8| 11| | DeWitt| 19| 35| | Goliad| 1| 1| | Gonzales| 3| 4| | Jackson| 3| 7| | Lavaca| 3| 10| | Refugio| 1| 2| | Victoria| 81| 159| | TOTAL| 121| 229| | Reference CASA. (2013). Court Appointed Special Advocates. Retrieved from http://www. goldencrescentcasa. org/index. html.