Throughout April, or Child Abuse Prevention Month, CASA of El Paso is raising awareness about child abuse and neglect in the community and the need for more CASA volunteers to help make a difference in a child’s life.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA volunteers, are individuals from all walks of life who speak up for a child or sibling group’s best interests while they are in the care of the state.
According to the Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS), there were 800 victims of child abuse or neglect and a total of 635 children in the child protection system in El Paso County last year.
“CASA’s role is more important than ever with all of the challenges currently facing the child protection system,” said Lisa Saucedo, executive director of CASA of El Paso. “It is our goal to be able to provide every child with a voice in a court to ensure that they do not get lost in the system.”
In December 2015, U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled that the Texas child welfare system fails to protect kids in the long-term care of the state – ultimately violating their constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm. The challenges and struggles plaguing the system continued, leading to Gov. Greg Abbott naming CPS reform his No. 1 emergency item for the 85th Legislative Session.
CASA volunteers work on a case-to-case basis, getting to know the child and everyone involved in that child’s life, including family members, foster parents and teachers, so that they can represent the child’s best interests in court and other settings until the child reaches a safe, permanent home.
Last year, 370 CASA volunteers served 607children in the child welfare system in El Paso County, but 150 children still need a volunteer to advocate for their best interests. Consider making a difference for these children by becoming a CASA volunteer.
“Our top priority is always the best interest of the child,” said Saucedo. “We will continue to provide the highest quality of advocacy for our most vulnerable children in care until the day comes that we are no longer needed because every child has the happy, safe home they deserve.”