EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - In a former parsonage of Center's Methodist church is the new CASA office. Volunteer supervisor Patty Watkins begins each day there in the attempt to reach a very significant goal.
"Most perfect thing in the world (is) that every child that is in foster care would have a CASA, said Watkins.
'CASAs' are volunteers who represent children going through the foster care system. The volunteer is a voice for the children in the courtroom and provides them support during the often emotional time.
Outdoor signs asking for CASA volunteers are now posted in San Augustine and Shelby Counties. One caught Alan Ricketson's attention. The retired off shore worker is now supervising three siblings in foster care.
"It was a real eye opener that there's a great need, a great need," said Ricketson. There are more children every day that come into care and so we need more and more volunteers," commented Ricketson, who often travels to Beaumont to see the children currently living in an evaluation center. "Our hope is to return them home," said Watkins.
CASA has always wanted to expand services to other counties. It successfully serves Nacogdoches County. "They have a lot of cases in Shelby County and we knew that and we knew five years ago that was what we wanted to do," said Rebecca Carlton, CASA's executive director.
Currently Shelby County Child Protective Services has a case load of more than 40 children. Too many for a new CASA program to serve. Hopefully that will change as more potential volunteers learn how they can help.
"They come at night for the training from 5-9, until our 40 hours are completed. Then we have courtroom observation."
In less than six months time CASA's Center office has so much going for it. The parsonage provides a comfortable setting for consultations and training. There are eleven volunteers. The district judges in both counties back the initiative one 100%. Everyone is working together to give the children representation where they most need it.
There are two upcoming training sessions for CASA volunteers. The first is this coming weekend, March 10, and another on April 21st.