CASA of West Texas supports volunteers who advocate for child abuse victims in their 7-county coverage area that includes Howard County and surrounding areas. When severe child abuse and neglect occurs in a home, foster care may be the only option to keep a child safe. When a child enters foster care, a judge will appoint a CASA Volunteer to advocate for that child's best interest in court and in the community.
Howard County is documented as their second largest service area, only behind Midland County. Last year, CASA of West Texas served approximately 130 children in Howard County. In this new fiscal year that began on April 1, 2020, the organization has already seen 97 children removed from their homes, all in Howard County.
Hope Stalder, Volunteer Recruitment and Marketing Specialist for the organization, told KBest News that the organization expected a slight influx of cases during the pandemic, but they did not expect the increase to be as dramatic as it has been.
"It's been a pretty drastic increase, and we fear it's only going to get worse once these children start coming back out into the community [and] they start being seen more. That's really our great fear and we really just do not have the volunteer numbers to sustain that type of influx," said Stalder.
Currently there are 18 CASA volunteers who advocate for children in Howard County, but, unfortunately, this isn’t enough to carry the caseload that is expected. Stalder explained that if there aren't enough volunteers to accept the case, the child will not have a Court-Appointed Special Advocate to speak for them while in foster care until one can be found.
Stalder advised that 20-25 more volunteers are needed for Howard County at this time. A Zoom information session will be hosted tomorrow at noon by CASA of West Texas (https://www.facebook.com/events/573739409978577/). The next virtual training session will be held on July 28, 2020. For more information, contact Hope Stalder at 432-683-1114, 432-934-6656, or visit casawtx.org.