African-American Leaders and Churches Join Texas Casa to Kick Off A Statewide Campaign to Recruit African-American Casa Volunteers to Stand Up for Children in Houston
Houston, Texas – Court Appointed Special Advocates® (CASA) and CASA programs from throughout the Houston Region are reaching out to churches and community leaders to raise awareness about the desperate need to recruit volunteers, specifically African-American volunteers, to help abused and neglected children in and around Houston and the surrounding counties. Today, CASA kicked off a recruitment event at the Houston Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy.
“We believe African-American communities are deeply committed, concerned and want to make a difference for children in the Houston area,” said Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO.
Right now, Harris County has the highest number of African Americans children in foster care. In the Houston, Texas region, 34 percent of the children served by CASA are African-American while only 15 percent of the volunteers are African-American.
Children benefit from a one-on-one relationship with a caring, supportive adult and it can lead to positive changes in a child’s life. Also, African-American volunteers are more likely to be sensitive to cultural differences the kids face when placed with a foster family that is not from a similar background. CASA volunteers are often the one constant in a child’s life as he or she goes through foster care.
“We believe by working with pastors and other leaders in our communities we can find community members who may be volunteers willing to help children,” said Spriggs.
“Every year thousands of abused and neglected children are placed in foster care. Each one of these children needs someone they can count on to help them get through the foster care system and into a caring home,” said Dr. Paul Landrew, Senior Pastor at St. Stephen Baptist Church, “CASA volunteers do this every day, but we need more good people to speak up for children. Consider becoming a CASA volunteer or supporter. You will make a lifelong difference in a child’s life and your own.”
Tyrone Obaseki is a former foster child. He was placed in Child Protective Services when he was only two months old and he lived in foster home after foster home until he was 18 years old and aged out of the system. Tyrone has overcome several obstacles in his convoluted childhood such as neglect, homelessness, molestation and physical and emotional abuse. Despite his hardships, he has gone on to achieve success. He is a graduate of Texas A & M Commerce University, and currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling at Prairie View A & M University.
Since his emancipation from care he has been working diligently to increase awareness and implement change within the CPS system.
Obaseki’s message is motivational for other children with less-than-perfect lives and advocates who devote their careers and volunteer hours to help them. “I wish I had a CASA volunteer. I may have had someone who cared enough to help me find my forever home while I was still a kid, ” Obaseki said. “These children need us and we need African American’s to volunteer to help save our children.”
CASA volunteers advocate for the best interest of African-American children in court and beyond, but the numbers are staggering when it comes to the need for African-American volunteers.
“Together, through advocacy and partnership, we can make a difference providing advocates who ensure safe, permanent homes for African- American children in Texas,” said Spriggs.
Volunteers are needed to help protect Texas children in foster care. In 2011, 231 Texas children died of abuse and neglect in Texas, 38 of those were from Harris County.
Nichole Johnson-Little is a volunteer for Galveston County CASA. She is one of those caring and compassionate advocates for children. Nichole has helped several children through the court process and explained her experience at the news conference today.
“I wanted to give back in a more lasting and substantial way. As a CASA volunteer you can be there for a child at their time of greatest need. I’m in a position with my life experiences where I can meet with a young African-American man or woman and explain that being a minority and being poor does not mean you have to accept the at-risk label being put on your forehead,” said Johnson-Little.
“With the youth I just try to be there and to listen. I take everything seriously. I fight for their needs, make calls and hold people accountable. I believe you have to give it everything you’ve got for these kids. The CASA volunteer is often the one constant caring adult in a child’s life who advocates for the child’s best interests and helps the child find a safe and loving home,” said Johnson-Little.
Texas CASA is a statewide association of 69 local CASA programs that recruit, train and supervise community volunteers who are court appointed to represent the best interests of children in CPS custody due to evidence of abuse or neglect. Each CASA volunteer is appointed to advocate for one child or set of siblings so he or she can get to know the child or sibling group and what the children’s current and future needs are.
The CASA volunteer visits the child regularly, monitors the child’s progress and the progress of the CPS case in general. The CASA volunteer interviews everyone involved in the child’s life and reviews all relevant medical, educational and legal records, and reports his or her findings to the court and other parties. CASA volunteers make recommendations to judges about the children’s best interests now and in the future, and help guide children out of the foster care system as soon as possible.
When home is no longer safe for a child, and the child must enter the foster care system, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer called a CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate®. The volunteer’s focus is on that child, giving hope and help in guiding the child to a safe, permanent home. Make a difference. Consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Visit www.BecomeACASA.org.
This event is timed to begin the day before the Texas Black Expo begins. Texas CASA will have a booth at the Texas Black Expo and will follow up with area programs about helping to staff the booth over the weekend.