LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Two decades ago, Janet Read would make a decision that would change her life and the lives of hundreds of East Texas children.
"I thought why have I applied for this position?" Read said. "I hate hearing stories of children that have been abused and neglected."
The decision was the first of many that would grow CASA in the Pines to a group of child advocates that serves Angelina, Polk and Houston counties.
"CASA of the Pines began with just one part-time employee and now we have services in three counties and provide services to over 300 children," current Executive Director Natalie Thornton said. "It is one of the most difficult things that can happen to a child," Thornton said. "They've been ripped out of their homes. They have been abused and neglected. Often they live with virtual strangers."
Thornton said each case they work with has one Court Appointed Special Advocate that is able to just focus on the one child.
"They are able to meet with the child one-on-one and make sure their needs are being met," Thornton said. "They can investigate, make sure they have their educational needs, their physical needs and make sure they are working well with CPS."
When CASA of the Pines first started they used a small office in the 2nd floor of the Angelina County Courthouse. Since then, they have been able to move to a house next to the Lufkin Police Station, after they received funding from the TLL Temple Foundation.
"Sadly, I think we will always have this need," Read said. "I am happy that we do have people that are willing to step up and help with this need and go through the training to help people.
One family that has received help is Misty and Jason Harris. The Harris family are foster parents and in November of 2015 adopted Addison into their family.
"They are just down to earth people," Jason Harris said. "They are just like we are. They love the kids. That's why we do do it. They love kids and we love kids"
Misty only had boys before the adoption of Addison, so the addition allowed her to raise a daughter.
"CASA is an amazing organization that helps children in foster care," Misty Harris said. "I personally have loved every CASA worker we have come in contact with. They have a loving and wonderful heart. "They went above and beyond in helping us adopt our daughter."
Read said she never believed that CASA would grow to the size it has and said it is the community that made it possible.
"It really became a position of helping and knowing we are making a difference," Read said.
CASA is always in need of volunteers. For more information, click here.