LETTERS: Advocate for children

April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and CASA of Cameron-Willacy is raising awareness of the need for more dedicated members of the community to step up and become CASA volunteers, and help break the cycle of abuse and neglect, through supporting children and 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 difficult time in their life.

“Our volunteers’ first priority is to keep families together whenever safe and possible,” said Dora Martinez, Executive Director of CASA of Cameron-Willacy. “Foster care is only a temporary solution to the problems at hand. We need to create longterm 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.

They get to know the child and everyone involved in their life, such as 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 CASA and Child Protective Services involvement has ended. 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.

CASA served 213 children in the foster care system in Cameron-Willacy counties in January; however, there still are dozens of children who need someone to advocate for them locally. This month, consider stepping up to make a difference by becoming a CASA volunteer.

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

When reunification is not a possibility for the children they serve, CASA volunteers work to find others who can provide a positive, healthy and loving environment.

These can include relatives, friends or other adults who are important in the child’s life, keeping the child connected to their home community.

Statewide, the CASA movement is growing faster than ever before. Last year the 72 CASA programs in Texas recruited a total of 10,874 CASA volunteers to advocate for 30,432 children.

“We at CASA 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,” Martinez said.

“Until then, we will continue to seek more members of the community to join our growing movement so that we can provide a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one.”

If you see abuse, report it to (800) 252-5400, or go to www.txabusehotline.org. If a child’s life is in danger, call 911. For more information on CASA, visit www.becomeacasa.org or www.casaofcameronandwillacy.org, or call (956) 546-6545.

At this time, CASA is paying attention to all public health and safety concerns to prevent the spread of COVID19, and is currently offering online training courses, Zoom/ Skype interviews, and encouraging everyone to consider this as an option to train to become a CASA advocate.

Joe Medrano, Brownsville