The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Letters to the Editor

January 16, 2009

CASA programs need extra funds

News outlets throughout our area are full right now of stories about the upcoming legislative session starting in January. Many of those stories are about unmet needs and how best to fund programs to meet those needs. The amount of money being debated is staggering, but the number I can’t get out of my head is 47,000. That’s the number of children who passed through the Texas foster care system last year in search of a safe, permanent home.

I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) which means I am a volunteer, appointed by a judge, to represent the best interest of a child in CPS custody. That means I talk to everyone involved in the child’s life -- teachers, therapists, foster parents, relatives, caseworkers, attorneys -- then give the judge my recommendation on how to best help that child through the system to a safe, permanent home. You know you are doing what is in the best interest of children when you get to be a part of them being permanently removed from an abusive/neglectful home and witness the adoption into a warm, loving, protective environment where they will be cherished and nurtured. How many more are out there that we could “make a difference” in their lives if only the funds were available.

The steady presence of a committed volunteer advocate dedicated to a child can be the difference between a life bouncing from foster home to foster home and the permanence of a loving home. That’s why I’m hopeful lawmakers will find a way to give CASA programs additional funds to maintain the level of service they’ve achieved -- over 20,000 children represented last year -- and to recruit and train enough volunteers to serve another 4,000 children. If they don’t, many of our State’s most vulnerable citizens will go without that one adult devoted to their best interest and their future.

Charlotte (Nima) West,

Volunteer

CASA of Trinity Valley

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