Officials for a Central Texas agency that advocates for children who have been removed from their home because of abuse or neglect said they need “double the number” of volunteers in order to meet the needs of young victims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, it became challenging for the court system, but also for volunteers of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Central Texas to be able to meet with children and their caregivers.
“The challenge for us when it first hit was really, how are we going to maintain contact with these children if we’re not allowed to see them?” said Eloise Hudson of CASA. “How are we going to get information from one caregiver to the other if we can’t see them? Our volunteers are already utilizing things like text messaging and email, but those face-to-face visits are very important.”
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Hudson said volunteers have adapted and used Zoom for virtual meetings. Court hearings are now being held online.
She said although nine new volunteers were sworn in on Tuesday, the agency still needs more.
“One of the other challenges that we’ve had, too, is just recruiting more volunteers,” Hudson said.
Sharon Miller, a volunteer, said she gets emotional thinking about the day that Kym, a child who was assigned to her by CASA, was officially adopted.
“I testified, and as the judge was reading the final order that she would be adopted, I think every single one of us on that call, we were in tears,” Miller said.
Miller said it was three years ago when she was assigned to Kym’s case, and despite the pandemic, Kym, who is now 13 years old, was recently adopted.
“Because it was a special day, I actually had a gift for the child on my case that got adopted,” Miller said. “I left it on the front porch, rang the doorbell, stepped back did the ‘virtual hug’ thing. And at least it was a good opportunity to see her in person at that time.”
CASA covers Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays counties.
Volunteers are screened, trained and appointed to children.
“When there is a child in the court system who needs an additional advocate. Someone to come in and tell the judge what’s in the best interest of the child, the judge comes to their local CASA program,” Hudson said.
To learn more about being a volunteer and to submit an application to become one, click here.