Foster Care Awareness – Interview With CASA volunteer

This article was originally published on December 3, 2020.

My family and I have been involved in foster care for most of my life. I wanted to make a series over the course of the next couple of weeks, bringing awareness to Foster Care. I have recently reached out to Laura Walters who is a middle school ILA teacher as well as a CASA volunteer. In this interview, she talks about being a CASA worker and Foster Care.

Can you tell me what foster care is?

Foster care is a temporary placement for a child when they are unable to remain with their families, often due to parental substance abuse/domestic abuse, abuse/neglect to the child, or an ongoing investigation. Foster care placements can be with families who have volunteered and passed screening to open their home, in group homes, emergency shelters, or residential care facilities.

What can you tell me about foster care statistics?

In 2019 in Denton County, more than 1,000 children were placed in foster care due to abuse and/or neglect. Currently, more than 11,000 children are in foster care in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and more than 3,000 are waiting for foster homes. Last year in Texas there were more than 225,000 reports of abuse. This number is usually much lower than actual abuse cases due to the number that go unreported. Lately, COVID has created a decrease in abuse reports. This is actually not a good thing because some abused and neglected children, as well as those who are unable to be cared for by their family, are not being assisted due to not being around mandated reporters (medical workers, teachers, etc).

What does CASA stand for?

Court Appointed Special Advocates.

What does being a CASA worker mean?

A CASA worker is appointed as a “guardian ad-litem” to children in a family. This means that the job of the CASA is to represent the child’s best interest. A CASA worker will create a court report, represent the child at court hearings, attend family visitations, read through medical and counseling notes as well as follow up with the family on any court-recommended services. Judges tend to agree with the CASA recommendation about 90% of the time because of the great work that goes into gathering information from as many sources as possible.

What were the steps you had to take to be a CASA worker?

To be a CASA worker, I had to first apply online. I then had a pre-screening interview where I learned about the program. I then had to complete a background check and 30 hours of training. We did the training over Zoom this year because of Covid. Afterward, I had to get fingerprints taken, have a follow-up interview, then meet with my assigned supervisor.

What education and/or program did you have to take to be able to be a CASA worker?

The awesome part about CASA is that they provide all training and there is no prerequisite needed! People of all backgrounds, education levels, etc are able to volunteer! They produce training through what is called CASA College. It walks us through the initial training as well as provides the ongoing training needed. Each year, CASAs have to complete 10 hours of training through the online CASA College.

Now that you are a CASA worker, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to supporting a child during a scary process. I am excited to get to know the family I am assigned to, help point them to resources, and advocate/represent a child in need. I have had to go through the court process myself and am excited to pass on the support I felt.

What do you think will be the greatest challenge?

This is not a “hobby” or something to be taken lightly. It is very heavy and takes a great emotional toll. I think it may be hard if a case doesn’t turn out how I’d hoped or if a child is unhappy with a resolution.

Is there anything you would like to add or want our readers to know?

I think CASA is an amazing program and would encourage more people to volunteer! There are actually several ways to be involved if someone feels like they don’t have the capacity to serve as an advocate. There is a legislative action team where people can meet with lawmakers to encourage support of the program as well as ways to give financially!

I want to give a special thanks to Laura Walters for letting me interview her! The next interview of this series will be with Angelica Gallegos, who is a Case Worker. Thank you for reading!

To read the next article of this series click here: