AUSTIN, Texas—Governor Rick Perry declared today, April 14, Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Day, a day honoring the 5,259 volunteers around the state who stand up for foster children in court. CASA staged a moving display at the Texas Capitol in honor of the proclamation and for Child Abuse Awareness Month.
Governor Perry said in the proclamation, “Only by becoming informed, and ideally, involved in working toward a solution can we finally ensure that all children in Texas are safe.
Texas CASA’s executive director Joe Gagen read the message from the governor in front of cardboard cutouts of foster children representing the average of 275 children removed from their homes each and every week in Texas because they are being abused. Of those children, fewer than half have CASA volunteers helping them find a safe,permanent home.
CASA volunteers get to know a foster child and talk to everyone in that child’s life—from doctors to parents to teachers. Then the volunteer recommends to the judge how best to find the child a safe, permanent home.
The Stand Up for Abused and Neglected Children display debuted on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and made its way across Texas before arriving at the state Capitol. Since Texas’ foster children could not be at the rally to talk about what their lives are like, the cardboard cutouts held signs showing foster children’s own words like, “Foster children should be seen and heard.” Other signs read, “8 Foster Homes” and “We all have the highest potential.”
Justice Harriet O’Neill of the Texas Supreme Court called for all Texans to not only report child abuse when they see it but to step forward to address the consequences of that abuse. Among the ways that Justice O’Neill listed included becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
She pointed out the value of CASA volunteers by saying, “It is not surprising that 97 percent of Texas’ judges recently surveyed say the personal knowledge the volunteers have of each case helps them make a decision.”
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, in 2008, 14,295 children were removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. Child abuse killed 213 children in 2008.The numbers clearly show just how many of those life and death decisions must be made every day.
In an overburdened court system, a CASA volunteer is typically the one constant in a foster child’s life. For more information on how to become a CASA, contact Bluebonnet CASA at 325-347-6474.