Each month, Collin County Moms Blog features a local non-profit organization that assists moms and/or families in need. We love the opportunity to spotlight how local families can help out through volunteering, donating time or money and more, right in our own community. We try to pick organizations that our contributors know and volunteer for personally, and are eager to share the needs of our friends and neighbors throughout Collin County.
About four years ago, I decided to seek out a new volunteer opportunity. As part of a New Year’s resolution, I wanted to serve others in an impactful way and I had a few top priorities in seeking out the right organization. I wanted to serve my local community directly, to serve people who were vulnerable and neglected, and to serve a long-term commitment. As an elementary school teacher, working with children also seemed like a natural fit. Through my research, I quickly found an organization called CASA of Collin County that checked all of the goals I had for a volunteering experience.
I jumped into the training process and two weeks later, I was sworn in at my local courthouse, and it’s has been an incredible experience ever since. In the past four years, I have worked with three children and overseen a total of 34 months of court proceedings. My eyes have been opened to many, many things. Namely, what other parts of my town/county look like, how the court systems in my county work, where my local Child Advocacy Center (CPS office) is located, and how the foster care system is run.
CASA of Collin County serves all children that are removed from their home by CPS in the Collin County area. As you can imagine, these children’s stories are hard to hear. Children are taken from homes with severe abuse and neglect, and are then placed with relatives or a foster family. Often times, they are removed by adults they have never met and taken to a new home with adults they have never met. CASA is their voice.
What is a CASA?
CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate.” In Collin County, every single child that is removed from their home by CPS is appointed a CASA as their guardian ad litem by a judge. CASA is the only social service agency that provides a service like this. As a CASA, I am responsible for gathering information about the case, connecting with all parties involved, and most importantly, advocating for the child. Making decisions in these cases are extremely difficult; the impartial information gathered by CASA helps the judge make informed decisions in the case.
What is the time commitment like?
After you complete training through the CASA office located in downtown McKinney, you will embark on your first case. In the past, I have spent an average of 1-2 hours per week working from my home on the case. This includes making phone calls, sending emails, and working on documentation. I am also responsible for meeting with the child twice per month. This typically involves driving to the Child Advocacy Center located in Plano, as well as the foster placement somewhere in Collin County. Lastly, you will be responsible for giving a report at each court hearing. Hearings happen periodically over the course of the case and take place at the Collin County Courthouse in north McKinney.
I have volunteered as a CASA while having a full-time teaching job, I simply used one or two sick days to be at the court hearings and completed all other volunteer hours on evenings or weekends. For the past two years, I have volunteered while being a stay-at-home mom. I worked on the cases during nap time and recruited my SAHM friends to babysit my kids on court days. It’s a commitment, but the CASA staff is dedicated to supporting you. I can’t say enough positive things about the full-time staff at CASA of Collin County! They are flexible and personable–I have never had an issue making the time commitment work.
Learn more about becoming a CASA in Collin County at their website.
How else can I help CASA of Collin County?
It’s possible that the role of CASA isn’t right for you. Maybe speaking during a court hearing is overwhelming, your time is overcommitted, or seeing the effects of child abuse is too tough to handle. May I suggest supporting your local CASA office in the following ways:
Plus, visit CASA of Collin County’s social media to get connected: