The holiday season is in full swing. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah and Christmas and Kwanzaa, there’s something for almost everyone to celebrate and feel a part of a community. While these holidays help bring people closer together, this can be a difficult time for children and families involved in the child welfare system who are not able to be together. 

When a family is in crisis and becomes involved in the child welfare system, the children are often removed from their homes and placed in foster care, many times far from everyone and everything they know. This holiday season, CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties urges you to be mindful of the children who are spending the holidays away from those they love, and consider how you can help make a difference.

“December is meant to be a festive time to spend with your friends and family,” said Kimberly Stephens, executive director of CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties. “Too often, though, children in foster care must spend the holidays away from their family and home community, which can deprive them of many precious memories that can make the holiday season so special.”

This is where Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers can step in and make the most impact. Appointed by a judge, CASA volunteers’ first priority on cases is to advocate for keeping families together whenever safe and possible. When that is not possible, CASA volunteers recommend that children live with another relative or close family friend to ensure that they maintain connections to their family and community.

Take this true story for an example of the impact of CASA volunteers. When three young siblings were placed in foster care, there was little chance that they could return home to their mom, Crystal. She was estranged from her family and had minimal resources – and after her children were removed she found herself alone when she needed support more than ever.

But CASA volunteers John and Jenifer believed in her. John, Jenifer and the caseworker reached out to some of Crystal’s extended family members for support. It was a long road, and with CASA and the caseworker’s help, Crystal’s support system grew to a strong network of family and friends.

With this newfound support, Crystal went above and beyond in completing the state’s requirements for her children to safely return home. She got her own apartment and a full-time job, and embraced the family supporting her and the kids.

Today, Crystal and her kids are enjoying a new season a reunited family.

Stories like these are the reason why CASA volunteers are so imperative in the lives of children and families. They need someone who can get to know them and their unique situation, advocate for them, and help ensure they are surrounded by caring people who will support them even after CASA and CPS involvement ends.

“CASA volunteers stand by children’s side while they are in foster care, providing a consistent presence and ensuring they are kept safe and their needs are met,” said Stephens. “They also help make sure children stay meaningfully connected with their families and communities.”

According to the Department of Family and Protective Services, in 2018, 52,397 children in DFPS conservatorship statewide, children were in foster care in Texas alone 332 children in our community. CASA Liberty/Chambers Counties is challenging more members of the community to become a part of the solution by becoming a CASA volunteer. 

CASA volunteers get to know a child or sibling group on an individual level and speak with other important people in the child’s life, such as their parents and family, teachers, therapists, foster parents and more. With the information they gather, they develop a holistic understanding of their circumstances and needs, and make recommendations to the court. They advocate first for family reunification whenever safe and possible. They also help find and engage family members and other supportive adults who can serve as a network of support for the child and their parent or parents.

Consider becoming a CASA volunteer to help give a child and their family a better chance at a brighter future – and the happy holiday season they deserve. To learn more, visit www.casalctx.org.  The next information session is Dec.18 at the CASA office in Liberty at 1 pm. 

The above submitted column is part of the Baytown Sun’s broader mission to help readers connect with their communities by donating editorial space to worthy organizations. If you or your organization would like to be part of our Community Corner initiative, contact Managing Editor David Bloom at david.bloom@baytownsun.com. Please note that no for-profit or elected officials are eligible to be part of the Community Corner.

 

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