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CASA Volunteer Makes Real Difference in Life of Foster Child

CASA Volunteer Makes Real Difference in Life of Foster Child
Volunteers provide consistent, impactful adult presence until child reaches a forever home

Austin, TX (Sept. 8, 2016) – John Luke came into the world facing an uphill battle. Born extremely premature and exposed to street drugs during his mother’s pregnancy, his future was uncertain when his mother announced, upon admission to the hospital, that she did not want him. With no father or other family member to step forward to take responsibility for him, John Luke entered foster care medically fragile and in desperate need of someone to fight on his behalf. That someone was Toni Williams, his Court Appointed Special Advocate, or CASA volunteer.

Williams met John Luke at two weeks old, as he clung to life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She stepped in and became a voice for John Luke during this critical time in his physical and emotional development. She provided the human touch and bonding required for him to thrive, and she advocated for him to receive the vital rehabilitative services he needed in order to flourish as a premature baby.

“I committed to being a stabilizing, familiar force in his young life until we found John Luke the right forever family,” said Williams.

Williams later advocated for John Luke to be adopted by a qualified, loving family. Now a happy toddler in a forever home, John Luke is developing better than specialists expected. Williams continues to be a part of his life. Together, their story points to the tremendous impact a CASA volunteer can have on the life of a child, and the personal fulfillment a CASA volunteer gains from assisting a child at the time of their greatest need.

When a child enters foster care because his or her home is no longer safe, a CASA volunteer can be appointed by a judge to represent a child’s best interests. A volunteer guides a foster child through the overburdened and complex child protection system with the goal of reaching a safe and permanent home. Volunteers often become one of the only consistent adults for a foster child, spending a significant amount of time with the child.

The work of a CASA volunteer also involves gathering information from everyone involved in a child’s daily life, including family members, foster parents, teachers, doctors and social workers. CASA volunteers use the information they collect to report to the judge, advocating for the child’s physical and emotional needs. They are not foster parents; they are highly trained community advocates acting as a powerful voice for a child or sibling group.

Williams encourages people from all walks of life to become a CASA volunteer, especially those from the Hispanic and African-American communities because it is important for volunteers to reflect the diversity of the children they serve.

“A CASA volunteer who looks like the child benefits them in intangible ways and helps them develop a positive self-image,” said Williams. “There is no greater personal reward as a CASA volunteer than seeing a child whom you helped thrive in their forever home.”

How to Help
To learn how you can help children in your community, find your local CASA program at BecomeACASA.org. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and willing to commit to at least one year of advocacy. No special educational background or experience is required.

About Texas CASA
Austin-based Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is the statewide organization of 72 local CASA programs that recruit and train volunteers to advocate for children in the child protection system. Last year, 8,476 well-trained volunteers served 25,947 children in 207 of the 254 Texas counties. Texas CASA supports the local CASA programs by advocating for effective public policy for children in the child protection system and by providing funding, training and technical assistance to program staff, board and volunteers.

CASA volunteers are everyday members of the community doing extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. They are screened and trained, then appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child or sibling group in the foster care system. Often the CASA volunteer is the one constant in a child’s life while he or she goes through the overburdened system. CASA volunteers work to move the children through foster care and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.