Helping Hands Initiative: CASA of West Texas

WEST TEXAS -- If you're interested in volunteering with CASA of West Texas, you can find more information online HERE.

CASA West Texas is helping children in the foster care system, one volunteer at a time.

In 2017, 54 children a day were placed in the foster care system, coming to a total of more than 50,000 children in Texas.

CASA West Texas helps children by giving them a court-appointed advocate, a person who makes sure their needs are met and represented.

Children in the foster care system are looking for stability while a court decides who will raise them, according to Kathy Harmon, the Volunteer Recruitment Specialist for CASA West Texas.

“They could have several caseworkers during that year. They could be in several different foster homes in that year. But we’d like to think that they’d just have one case, and that’s that one consistent person on the case,” she said.

A CASA volunteer represents the child.

“They get to know the child, they go visit them in their foster home. Then they advocate for them in several different areas. For example, their health, emotional, educational, they make sure that all of those needs are being met,” she said.

A CASA volunteer advocate must be at least 21 years old, have a clear criminal history and background, and attend 30 total hours of training. Twenty hours of training are in the classroom, and 10 are online.

“And we ask that they be available and willing to commit to that one year. At least, while the child is in that first year of foster care,” she said.

Harmon said parents have 12 months to meet the court’s demands to get their children back.

“It’s unique that you have the opportunity to make a difference in the direction of a child’s life. And get to share your opinion or your recommendations with the judge, who’s the ultimate decision maker,” she said.

Last year, CASA West Texas advocated for 483 children in the seven West Texas counties it covers. But that’s only scratching the surface of the impact they want to make.

“Our goal is to serve 100 percent of the children. We have been able to do that in Midland county, we have not reached that goal in some of the smaller counties,” she said.

CASA of West Texas serves the counties of Midland, Howard, Martin, Glasscock, Dawnson, Gains and Andrews.

Harmon said volunteer advocates serve five to seven hours a month with their appointed CASA child, depending on their schedule and where they are in the court case.