Advocating for the abused and neglected children is the key focus of the trained citizens volunteering through CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties. Currently, more than 314 children are being served by 102 CASA volunteers who are a strong voice for these children as they journey through the foster care system.
The CASA volunteers speak up for the children’s best interests in the one court in Palo Pinto County and the four courts in Parker County.
“Just about every week, there are CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker County volunteers in court for their kids,” said Barb Tucker, executive director for CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties. “These volunteers have visited the children in their foster homes or relative placements, maybe visited with them at school, observed visitations between the children and their parents, and communicated with numerous professionals and family members all to gather information for their court report to the judge.”
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers are appointed by a judge in a case when a child or sibling group is removed from their home due to abuse or neglect. There are four to five court hearings a year in which the CASA volunteer provides information in the case to the judge. The judge relies on CASA information, which is independent of Child Protective Service workers and attorneys, when making decisions of the child or children.
A recent survey by Texas CASA showed that 97 percent of the judges responding to the survey said the CASA volunteer’s information is vital to the decisions he or she makes for the child or children.
Once 30 hours of training is completed, CASA volunteers are sworn in by one of judges within the two counties, and the volunteer is appointed to a case which typically lasts about one year.
CASA staff has the role to support the volunteers – whether it is to be a sounding board for the volunteer, or to be the go-between on case-related emails from CPS and attorneys to the volunteer. Staff also conducts pre-service training for volunteer candidates in both counties, and in-service training for the volunteers in both counties.