Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) advocates for the best interest of abused and neglected children in the court system through trained, community volunteers' services.
Our goal is to reduce the trauma of children in Child Protective Services by matching a child with a trained CASA volunteer who will offer support for the child through a long-term consistent relationship. The volunteer will explore and recommend resources and options available for the child and will offer the child guidance and information in understanding and dealing with the complex, unfamiliar court, and child welfare system.
- To advocate vigorously for the rights of abused and neglected children in Palo Pinto and Parker Counties ensuring that all "reasonable efforts" have been made for a child at every stage of the Child Protective Service process.
- To improve the quality of information presented to the courts on behalf of the child by informing the court of the child's adjustment and state of mind. This is done by gathering relevant information and making appropriate case recommendations in a written case report to the judge overseeing the child's case.
- To develop and implement a sound program management plan which includes recruitment, retention, supervision, and training of a competent volunteer corps which is ethnically, racially, and linguistically representative of the population to be served.
The program receives referrals directly from the courts. A CASA volunteer is matched to each case, which can include one or more children, and spends 15-20 hours of volunteer service per month. After reviewing the case information, the volunteer consults with the program staff to develop a case plan. Prior to each court hearing, the volunteer prepares a court report which includes evaluations and recommendations for the child. The judge reads and considers the CASA report in addition to the case worker's report prior to making his decision. All appointed volunteers are carefully screened and receive 30 hours of training in skills necessary to fulfill his or her responsibilities.
CASA volunteers are in a unique position because they can provide information not usually available to the court. Because of the growing number of cases filed in court and over burdened resources to adequately serve these cases, judges find the CASA volunteers' reports to be positive complements to the information necessary to make well-informed decisions.
In addition to our services to abused and neglected children, the CASA program works to provide the community education concerning the issue of child abuse, neglect, and child welfare policy. We are also committed to working toward public policies that promote child abuse prevention and to address reforms in the Child Protective Services/Foster Care Systems.