Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Anderson County is seeking donations, grants and 10-15 more volunteers to continue its mission of advocating for foster children.
The nonprofit organization is holding a capital campaign to raise $125,000 to build offices and meeting and training space for employees and volunteers.
CASA purchased a 3,000-square-foot building at 603 N. Perry St. near the Anderson County Courthouse in December. The building has a floor but needs construction to make it a suitable space for volunteers and employees and for working with children and families.
CASA’s three local employees and cadre of 27 volunteers currently serve roughly 90 foster children in Anderson County. The local organization is part of CASA of Trinity Valley, which also serves Henderson and Cherokee counties. CASA’s Athens and Jacksonville offices have already been expanded and updated to accommodate clients’ needs.
Volunteers ensure children’s physical, emotional and safety needs are met by contributing about 20 hours a month. Duties include checking on a foster child’s medical and dental appointments and academic performance as well as completing home and school visits and completing reports. Advocacy also involves speaking with attorneys and Child Protective Service workers.
The agency has an 87% success rate of reunifying children with parents or placing them with other family members.
“The key thing we’re trying to do is find them a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible,” said Penny LaPlant, program director of CASA of Trinity Valley.
CASA Caseworker Lee Brown said the organization needs more volunteers to visit foster children in their homes and advocate for them at court hearings. When the organization does not have enough volunteers, the staff compensate by working long hours.
“Volunteers go and visit the children and make sure they have a safe home,” Brown said. “When we don’t have a volunteer advocate available, staff will advocate for that child. We put in long hours and a lot of miles because of it.”
Volunteers meet for monthly required training sessions at the CASA office, currently leased at 1000 N. Church St., where space is limited. However, the organization has no plans to move until construction is complete on the new building.
Candidates interested in volunteering must be 21 or older and must pass a criminal and CPS background check. Once they complete the required training, volunteers are sworn in by a judge.
Volunteer applications are available on CASA’s website, www.casaoftv.org. For information call 903- 723-2272. Donations to the capital campaign can be sent to CASA of Anderson County, 1000 N. Church St., Palestine, Texas, 75801.