TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KRBC) — Big Country CASA working to fill the gap for children in the court system, who need advocates to see what their best interests are.
Nine advocates were sworn in, Tuesday morning, ready to take the next step, as they take on the role of superheroes for children in foster care.
“Our CASAs are just everyday people,” Rebel Taylor, Big Country CASA advocate coordinator said.
Big Country CASA swearing in nine court-appointed advocates, at the Taylor County Courthouse.
“With this class that we sworn in today, that puts us at 99 volunteers. That puts us serving close to 50 percent of the children in foster care. So, we still need more volunteers,” Taylor said.
“They need a consistent person in this crazy time that they’re in, in foster care, going in and out of homes, to maybe different case workers,” newly appointed CASA advocate, Taylor Hall said.
Hall said she wanted to help out in any way she could.
“I felt compelled to help these kids somehow, even though I couldn’t foster myself and so, being able to be an advocate is a good option for me,” Hall said.
“We see the needs everyday,” newly appointed CASA advocate, Candace Kennemer said.
Kennemer is the counselor student assistance specialist for the Abilene Independent School District.
“In Abilene ISD, we see certain kids come in, that are placed in foster care and there’s just not enough people working in the system that they need the help. They need CASA volunteers to come in and have relationships with the kids,” Kennemer said.
She hopes to help bridge the gap where kids have been falling through.
“To make a difference with parents as well, because getting resources to parents so that these situations don’t happen and keep happening, I think is instrumental to keeping families together,” Kennemer said.
Thirty-five training hours later and these CASA superheroes are ready to advocate for the next child in the court system.
“All we’re looking for are people that have the heart to help children in our community that have a desire to make a difference, that have a desire to help these children during the most difficult time of their life, that they’re willing to speak up, that they’re willing to be their voice and take a stand,” Taylor said.
This year, Big Country CASA is also partnering with Abilene ISD. Superintendent Doctor Young was instrumental in allowing teachers to become a CASA advocate and use it as professional development.
In order to become a CASA advocate, advocates must undergo 35 hours of training; 5 hours of courtroom training and 30 hours of classroom training. After that, advocates must have 12 hours of continuing education, every year to stay current.
The nationwide program tries to focus on older children who are old enough legally voice their opinions and direct their attorneys. However, the program also helps children from infants all the way up to children who are aging out of the system.