CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties serves abused and neglected children in Liberty and Chambers counties by providing court-appointed, community volunteers to speak up in the courts for these vulnerable children and youth. We recruit, train, and support volunteer Advocates, equipping them to advocate for the underserved foster child. Our amazing volunteer Advocates gather facts and research possible solutions just in case the parents do not complete their service plan with CPS. They speak for the child in the courtroom, representing the child’s best interest, and facilitate and monitor the case to ensure that the child’s well-being is addressed in a timely fashion. CASA volunteer Advocates provide insight and an objective perspective not bound by the restrictions or red-tape that govern a CPS caseworker or attorney, and develop a one-on-one, ongoing relationship with the child. Each volunteer Advocate undergoes screening and 30 hours of intensive training prior to being sworn in as a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in court, and participates in twelve hours of continuing education every year. A volunteer Advocate spends an average of 10-12 hours per month with the child, on phone calls, research, documentation, permanency conferences, court, and mediation. A commitment for the duration of a child’s case is usually one year, but could be as long as 18 months. Each volunteer Advocate is supported by a (staff) Advocate Coordinator who guides and advises him/her to advocate to the best of his/her abilities as the eyes and ears of the judge.Our volunteers are the backbone of CASA and are essential to accomplishing the goals of CASA – to give a chance to a child in the Foster Care system. The community impact of this program is widespread. Besides addressing the child’s best interests, the goal of most cases is to change the home environment so that the cycle of abuse and neglect will be broken for that family. Parents are required to be evaluated and trained to improve their parenting skills. The volunteer Advocate is motivated to bring a positive change to the lives of disadvantaged youth to ensure equitable and successful outcomes for them and their community as a whole.
Nation-wide studies have proven that children with a CASA volunteer Advocate are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care, defined as more than three years in care – only 13.3% for children with a CASA volunteer Advocate result in long term care versus 27.0% of all children in foster care. When a CASA volunteer Advocate is involved, both children and parents are ordered by the courts to receive more services due to CASA effectively identifying the needs of children and parents, and their persistent “bridge building” often gets counseling and special needs issues handled at a much faster pace than the norm. Children with a CASA volunteer Advocate are moved an average of two times less while in foster care, helping to establish stability so they can grow and flourish with more confidence, resulting in a 67% higher graduation rate than a child without a CASA. A child with a CASA volunteer Advocate is also much less likely to re-enter the Foster Care system.
Over the last three years CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties has grown 400% in the number of children served. In 2013, we served 79 children with 26 Advocates; in 2016, 342 children were served with 87 Advocates and in 2017 we expect an increase in children served.