CASA on campaign to recruit 300 new volunteers this year


Highlights

The new goal is to extend help especially to children who can’t speak for themselves.

“The most important quality of a CASA volunteer is that they have a heart for children,” judge says.

Often the most demanding volunteer opportunities are also the most rewarding — and the ones with the biggest impact on society. That’s certainly true of being a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, a volunteer who serves as an advocate for a child in Child Protective Services.

With more than 2,400 children in the system at any one time, the need for CASA volunteers is always great. But this year, CASA of Travis County has set a high goal for recruitment.

Callie Langford of CASA of Travis County said its 2018 recruiting goal will focus on the 400 or so children today who are under the age of 5. That means adding 300 more trained volunteers to they system.

“We have a strategic plan to be the first urban program in the country to serve all children in need,” she said.

Usually, CASA volunteers are more likely to be assigned to cases where older children might express wishes that may not be in their best interest. In those cases, a CASA volunteer can step in and share their knowledge of the child and their needs. The new goal, then, is to extend that help to children who can’t speak for themselves.

RELATED: Meet the man who wants to find an advocate for every child in CPS

When a child is too young to speak, their attorney is tasked to speak to the best interest of the child as well as their wishes. But the attorney does not always interact with the child as much as the CASA volunteer. And even the child’s caseworker, assigned by CPS, can be overwhelmed. CASA reports that the majority of caseworkers have an average caseload of more than 31 children.

“The CASA volunteers bring practicality, consistency, creativity and courage,” said Travis County District Judge Darlene Byrne, who presides over hundreds of CPS cases a year. Because the volunteer visits the child at least once a month and spends an average of 15-20 hours per month researching the case, he or she can have insight into the child’s life that others don’t.

MORE GIVING CITY: New nonprofit aims to increase nonprofit diversity

“They see services and opportunities in the community that can benefit the child because they’re looking as this child as it he were their own,” said Byrne. “The most important quality of a CASA volunteer is that they have a heart for children.”

CASA volunteer Naphtalie Gbolahan says her heart for children came from being an only child. “I always wanted siblings,” she said. Gbolahan said that at first the five-week training cycle intimidated her. But because the volunteers train as a group, “there’s a camaraderie that’s established,” she said. “You have a shared mission.”

The mother of two says it hasn’t been difficult to make time for her cases. “Once you build that repertoire in that relationship, you make it work. When you see progress and that child begins to open up, it motivates you.”

When Gbolahan was assigned her current case, she was surprised to find that the child lived within three miles of her home. “I just think that when someone in your community needs you, you have to help. That’s how we’re going to make Austin a better place.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

California barber criticized for hanging doll of Colin Kaepernick from noose in shop
California barber criticized for hanging doll of Colin Kaepernick from noose in shop

A Northern California barbershop owner apologized Friday and said he has received death threats after a photograph of a hanging doll in his shop portraying former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was posted on social media, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday. >> Read more trending news  The photograph was taken inside the Bowtie Barbershop...
Alabama boy, 13, found naked and chained in home
Alabama boy, 13, found naked and chained in home

A woman, her husband and her mother were arrested on child abuse charges Thursday after a 13-year-old boy was found naked and chained in a central Alabama home, AL.com reported. >> Read more trending news  Nicole Martin, 32, Joshua Daniel Martin, 26, and Vickie Seale Higginbottom, 58, were charged with torture and willful abuse of a...
Going bananas: Texas agents find $18M worth of cocaine in pallets of fruit
Going bananas: Texas agents find $18M worth of cocaine in pallets of fruit

Pallets of bananas that went unclaimed at port near Houston yielded a bunch of cocaine worth nearly $18 million, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  A business in Freeport, Texas, offered two pallets of the fruit to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice because they had not been claimed at the Ports of America, the television...
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome
Sororities at George Mason University reject woman with Down syndrome

An Indiana woman with Down syndrome was not accepted to any sororities at George Mason University because of her disability, her sister claimed. >> Read more trending news  AnnCatherine Heigl, a sophomore from Zionsville, was the first person from Indiana to be accepted to the university’s LIFE program -- a full-time program for people...
Man accused of walking too close to Old Faithful arrested in Cheyenne
Man accused of walking too close to Old Faithful arrested in Cheyenne

A Colorado man accused of walking too close to the Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park last week faces more charges after he led police on a chase in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the Billings Gazette reported. >> Read more trending news  Gabriel Villalva, 27, of Greeley, Colorado, was arrested in Wyoming’s capital city Wednesday...
More Stories