Children, CASA, and You
By DANNY MINTON
This past week I made a mistake. It represented one of those mistakes that brought tears into my eyes. It made my heart ache, and the more I continued, the more it hurt. I was researching some things for this article when I came across a TARE or Texas Adoption Research Exchange page. I clicked on the link to “children waiting for adoption,” and up popped page 1 of 20 of 1,000 children. The sight included boys, girls, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, sibling groups, and special needs. The children represented children of different ages up to 18 years old.
Both of our sons are adopted. Our youngest son lives in Corpus Christi with a great family and life. We’re proud of how he turned out in life. Our oldest passed away in 2014 at the age of 40. He was a special needs child with Cerebral Palsy. Unlike those on the TARE page, we adopted ours as babies. They are both special to us.
But what about those on the TARE page? Most of those I viewed will probably turn 18 before ever knowing a home, especially those with special needs. They represent children removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). Knowing this, I searched the page for the DFPS and saw some numbers that blew me away.
At the end of 2019, 29,927 children in Texas had been removed from their homes for abuse or neglect. But wait! During the year, almost 50,000 children went through the system, the 29,927 were those still in DFPS care. Others were either returned to their homes, adopted, or in many cases, turned 18 and left the system. This pattern repeats itself every year.
These thousands of children remain in foster care, waiting for the Texas court system to decide their fate. They receive a lawyer, their family receives a lawyer, and the state has a lawyer and a Child Protective Services (CPS) representative. Their world is one they do not understand. Many face uncertainty concerning their future. Fear engulfs others, not knowing what fate lies ahead of them. Some are moved from home to home, leaving friends, and continuously facing changes in their lives over which they have no control. They live with people they may not know and wonder, “Who cares for me?”
There exists an organization with the goal and purpose to represent the best interest of the children. It is called CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates. The mission statement: Big Country CASA advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the court system through trained community volunteers. The organization is composed of volunteers who are willing to walk beside the children through the process. The volunteers advocate for what is best for the child. Volunteers spend time with the children. They make sure their needs are met, keeping up with medical history, education, and needs. They communicate with the lawyers and sit in the courts, ensuring the child’s best interest remains in consideration.
I am currently a volunteer for the Big Country CASA. In our county, there are 650-700 children in the court system in any given month, of which only about half have a CASA representative. Currently, BCCASA has 130 volunteers serving around 285 children, leaving hundreds without someone to be there specifically for them on a personal monthly basis.
Current needs, not only for Big Country CASA but for any local CASA around the state, will be the same.
- To serve more children, we need more volunteers. The time commitment is approximately 10 – 15 hours a month for a minimum of 18 months
- More foster homes! The more foster homes available in our community, the more children that can STAY in their community.
- Financial support – if you can’t volunteer, could you pledge monthly support – even $10 a month helps support our mission.
How vital are CASA volunteers to the children? Taylor County Judge Paul Rotenberry made the statement to a group of volunteers, “I cannot thank you enough for what ya’ll do. You have saved the 326th District Court the last four years. If it had not been for ya’ll, we would not have had the attorneys we had to have to cover the caseloads that we had, and we would have had to dismiss cases. So when you talk about what you do for kids. There are kids in care today that need to be in care but would not have been in care but for the fact that you’re here.”
I know we all are busy with our own lives. I have irons in many fires, from home life to work experience. I deal with a lot of people each week of all ages. Also, I have three siblings in my case who I keep in contact with, assessing what fits in their best interest. It will be the middle of next year before making it through the court system, but I will be walking with them through these months, hopefully giving them feeling and comfort that they are not alone.
Texas has 72 CASA programs across the state. Thousands of children need someone who cares to stand with and beside them in a scary time of their lives. They are just children, scared and unsure about tomorrow. Many have faced things no child should face. They yearn for someone who cares.
I encourage you to check into your local CASA program for information. Here are a few of the sites for more details.
https://bigcountrycasa.org (Taylor County CASA)
https://nationalcasagal.org (National CASA Site)
https://www.dfps.state.tx.us (Texas Department of Family and Protective Services)
Children held a special place in Jesus’ heart. Mark records one of the times that Jesus interacted with children. “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:13-16 (NIV2011)
CASA is one more way to be Jesus to those he loved so much.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ