Anyone knows our CASA Program Director Jean Cate (and almost everyone does), knows these two things about her: Her passion for helping children is beyond reasonable measure – and it’s very, very hard to say no to her. Jean has been working for CASA for over thirteen years and is going stronger than ever. Trying to keep up with her is a daily challenge for most of us.
When new volunteers are given their first tour of the building, they’re introduced to staff in each department so they can decide where to give their time. I learned early on that tours should conclude at the CASA office instead of starting there – otherwise, they rarely make it to the other departments. Jean has a compelling story to tell and a sixth sense for spotting the perfect CASA volunteer within seconds after meeting them. And finding CASA volunteers is especially critical now. At last count, our CASA program is serving 161 children.
CASA is the acronym for Court Appointed Special Advocate, though sometimes I think Compassionate and Sincere Advocate is more appropriate. When a child is placed in foster care, they are assigned a CASA volunteer. That volunteer’s mission is to be the voice for that child in court. It’s the CASA who visits the child regularly, listens to their story, determines what their fears and wishes are, makes sure they’re being well cared for and stands up for them in court. For many of these children, the CASA volunteer is the first and only person who faithfully shows up as scheduled and certainly the first person whose mission is to be the child’s voice to the rest of the world. There’s a special bond between a CASA and the child that forges a strong bridge of trust for the child to the rest of the world. Something the child has never had before.
One of the CASA staff shared a story with me recently about a child who was removed from an abusive home a couple of years ago. The child was eventually placed with a relative and was doing well until the relative was hospitalized with a long term health issue. The child was placed back into the foster care system and the previous CASA was notified. When the CASA went to visit the child for the first time in the new foster home, the child came running out of the house screaming, “you found me, you found me!” and leaped into the CASA’s arms. What a beautiful moment for both of them.
Our local CASA program is busier than ever. With just four staff to handle 161 foster children, the need for CASA volunteers is critical. Mission Granbury provides CASA training several times a year, free of charge. Classes are from 9:00 a.m. to noon, twice a week for ten weeks. Long time CASA professional, Jerry Prather, leads the training and is joined by a number of guest speakers.
Our next CASA Training Class is scheduled to begin Monday, January 25th, at 9:00 a.m. at Mission Granbury’s Resource Center. Please call our offices at 817-579-6866 to register or for more information about becoming a CASA. Feel free to stop by and get a personal tour and meet the CASA staff for yourself – but be prepared to sign up if Jean is there.
Not everyone is cut out to be a CASA but those who are, know it instinctively. They have an innate desire to help children and a need to do something meaningful with their time. They want to really change lives . . . and they do.