“Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said to an audience in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957.
In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national day of service. Every year on the third Monday in January, Americans honor Dr. King’s legacy, service, and leadership by engaging in community activism and volunteering.
If you are looking for a unique and long-term way to make an impact in your community, consider becoming a CASA volunteer, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, and help children and families right here in Bastrop County.
“CASA is more than just your everyday volunteer opportunity,” said Kristi Glasper, executive director of CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties. “Our volunteers commit their time to make a direct, lasting impact in the life of a child in foster care, giving them a better chance at a happy future.”
When a family is in crisis and a child is removed from home, the child is placed in the foster care system, sometimes far away from their family, friends, loved ones and home community. Though they are in this situation due to no fault of their own, they face a higher risk than their peers of negative outcomes such as homelessness, mental health problems and dropping out of school.
“Due to the trauma they have experienced and being separated from their families, children in foster care are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” said Glasper. “They need a dedicated advocate to look after them and make sure their voice is heard while they are in the child welfare system.”
CASA volunteers go through pre-service training and then are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interest of a child in foster care. They get to know the child individually, and speak with their family of origin, foster parents, teachers, therapist, and others, to form a holistic picture of the child’s unique needs and circumstances. Their advocacy helps ensure the child’s best interests are heard in the court, and that they are safe and supported while they are in foster care.
CASA volunteers advocate first and foremost for reunification with the child’s family of origin and help ensure that the child and their parents have a network of family members and other adults who will support them even after their time involved with foster care. When reunification is not safe or possible, they advocate for the child to live with relatives or a loving adoptive family.
“We know that it is best for children when they can live safely at home,” said Glasper. “In fact, we hope for a day when CASA is no longer needed because all children are healthily and happily growing up with their families. Until then, we need more community members to step up and advocate, right here, right now.”
Last year, 53 CASA volunteers served 193 children in the foster care system in Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties, but 33 children still need a volunteer to advocate for their best interests. The CASA movement’s goal is to grow to serve all the children in the Texas system.
“Dr. King envisioned a ‘beloved community,’ where all people have the same opportunities to thrive. At CASA of Bastrop, Fayette & Lee Counties, we believe that change starts with children,” said Glasper.
For more information about becoming a CASA Volunteer, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.BecomeACASA.org" www.BecomeACASA.org or call 512.409.0771. Virtual CASA Volunteer training is scheduled for March 2021.