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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Local non-profit volunteers advocate for welfare of abused, neglected children

Business+honors+junior+Hannah+Walsh+%28left%29+and+community+health+senior+Kara+Musgraves+%28right%29+plan+upcoming+events+for+Voices+for+Children+and+CASA+volunteers.
Photo by By Hanna Hausman

Business honors junior Hannah Walsh (left) and community health senior Kara Musgraves (right) plan upcoming events for Voices for Children and CASA volunteers.

With limited time and piles of paperwork, child abuse caseworkers are sometimes unable to facilitate enough communication between neglected children and the court, but one volunteer group works to bridge that gap.
Voices for Children, Inc. is a non-profit organization which advocates for the welfare of abused and neglected children. The organization’s volunteers, known as Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, dedicate their time to serving the best interests of children who are often separated from their families in child abuse cases.
Caseworkers are frequently unable to dedicate extra time to a single case, and the state has a 12- to 18-month time frame to find a home placement for a child. According to The Austin American Statesman, more than 30 percent of child abuse caseworkers leave each year, and often those who stay are so overwhelmed by paperwork that only 26 percent of their time is spent with children and families. VFC’s CASA volunteers step in during this time in hopes of catalyzing the case through means of providing additional communication between the court and children.
“Each CASA volunteer accepts one child or one sibling group, one case at a time,” executive director of VSC Liana Rike said. “They not only visit with a child at a minimum of a monthly basis, but they also meet with teachers, therapists or doctors, any service provider for the child, CPS, caseworkers, also biological families to find out if there are any relatives the child may have a bond with that could serve as a placement for the child — either short term or long term.”
With more than 100 CASA volunteers, the non-profit actively serves 200 to 225 children in the county, said Susan Smith, Board President for VFC of the Brazos Valley.
Rike said CASAs use their training and casework to form calculated recommendations and relay those in court for future placement of the child. Rike said CASAs work on cases no fewer than 15 to 20 hours a month and undergo a rigorous selection process before their first case.
“We basically recruit, screen, train and then support volunteers in their CASA roles. CASA is a pretty complex role, they’re an officer of the court. Our CASA volunteers complete 30-hour training based off of the CASA national curriculum, and they are sworn in by the judge as an officer of the court.”
Ben Crouch, retired Texas A&M administrator and former sociology professor, has been a CASA since 2012.
Crouch said he was initially motivated in taking a hands on approach because of his work in sociology.
“I’m a sociologist and my specialization was in criminology and delinquency. So I certainly was aware of the problem for children that are from broken homes and often find themselves in foster care — and children just need help,” Crouch said. “When I retired, I cast about a bunch of things that I might do and again I was aware of the need for guardians ad litem, which is what a CASA is, and the fact is that they’re someone who looks to the interest of the child. The greatest loss is for a child to have no childhood or have insurmountable problems. And becoming a CASA was something that I could do that would allow me to maybe help a child here and there.”
Smith said Aggies looking to help the local CASA program can participate in Alpha Theta Kappa’s annual Rock the Casa 5K, become a friend of CASA or donate via voicesforchildreninc.org.

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