Judge Rob Hofmann, who was recently selected as Judge of the Year by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), spoke at the October 17 meeting of the Mason Bluebonnet Study Club. The topic addressed was “Court Child Protection in Texas, Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going”.Judge Hofmann stated that child abuse and neglect shows up in many different forms in many different circumstances. Abuse infers physical harm to the child while neglect includes leaving a child alone and unsupervised, leaving one in a hot automobile, not supplying enough nourishment, and many other forms of neglect. Prior to 1997 and passage by Congress of the American Safe Family Administration (ASFA), children removed from their home could be kept for long indeterminate time periods in temporary homes. After ASFA, cases must be handled quickly and children placed in permanent homes in safe circumstances.The Judge told the group that sometimes problems in the home can be solved by corrective measures and the child can go back. In many cases, parental rights must be revoked and an adoptive home sought to keep the child safe. Foster parents fill the gap while a permanent home is sought. In Texas, three rules apply: one, the child permanently placed in 12 months; two, safety issues must be taken into account; and three, the child’s well being taken into account.Texas protects the identity of a person who reports child abuse or neglect to the hotline number, 800-422-4453. In 2009, the last year that statistics are available, 250,000 calls were recieved. Of that number, some were deemed to be eronious, but 165,000 investigations were launched resulting in 78,000 cases being opened. 68,000 children were confirmed as victims of neglect and abuse, and 12,000 of those were removed from their homes and placed in safer circumstances.Judge Hofmann said that at any one time, 25,000 children are in foster care in the State of Texas and in need of permanent homes. Of the children removed from homes because of abuse or neglect, only about 1/3 can be sent back after problems are dealt with; 1/3 can be placed with relatives; adoptive parents must be found for the remaining 1/3. He praised Mason’s band director and his wife who have recently adopted five children into their family.Judge Hofmann’s assignment to the Texas Child Protection Court of the Hill Country includes twelve counties covering 10,000 square miles. In the nine years that he has held this position, he has presided over more than 10,000 dependence case hearings and over 200 adoptions.When asked what the solution to this ongoing problem of child neglect and abuse is, his reply was that we all need to strenghthen the home. Until that can be accomplished, communities must provide emergency homes on a temporary basis and do whatever can be done to protect the rights of children and keep them safe. He introduced Lisa Goehman, CASA Director who was in the audience and praised her work and that of the volunteers under her direction.At the conclusion of Judge Hofmann’s remarks, hostess Sherie Clarkson served refreshments from a table decorated in fall colors to guests Rosemary Kruckemeyer, Cheri Glass, Lisa Goehmann, and Judge Hofmann. Also to club members Tanya Lamoreaux, Mary Hemphill, Tommie Luckenbach, Sabin Nelson, Mary Ellen Merkel, Mary Carlman, and Betty Meyer.President Sabin Nelson presided over the club’s business including minutes, financial report, pledges, and Club Collect. Two upcoming events were planned. A rummage and baked goods sale to be held on November 5 under the awning in front of Hemphill’s on the south side of the square to benefit the scholarship program will begin at 8:00 a.m. Plans were finalized for the 70th anniversary tea to be held on November 12 at Mason County Library between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.Delegates to the Alamo District Fall Board Meeting, Tanya Lamoreaux and Betty Meyer gave a report on the meeting.A collection of cash donations and needed items was done during the meeting and will be delivered to The Haven by Tanya Lamoreaux.