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CASA Volunteers become an anchor for children in foster care

CASA Volunteer director Kelsi Vines spearheads a campaign to recruit more folks from the community to volunteer and help children in foster care (Drew Powell ABC 7 News)

Amarillo Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is in dire need of more volunteers. Changing the future of a child is challenging. One thousand and two hundred children aged out of the system last year without finding a home.

“These kids just need somebody to show up and say hey I care about you,” said Ashley Bishop, CASA Volunteer. “I just want to make sure that your being taken care of.”

“When I heard about CASA and what it did I felt like it was the communities responsibility and mine to personally to help,” said Jo Beth Latimer,” CASA Volunteer. “The children do have a voice and they need someone with them that’s there all the time.”

Despite these best efforts from volunteers many more are needed to help the children from the Texas Panhandle who are in foster care. Volunteering allows you to speak up for a foster child’s best interest which is why groups of volunteers meet at CASA in Amarillo. During the meeting they go over how to reduce outcomes of incarceration, homelessness and addiction.

“Once they get in the system they’ve been through a lot,” said John Edgington, CASA Volunteer. “They need all the help they can get. It’s just an opportunity to give them a fair chance at the world.”

“They give us the tools so we know how to handle it and we have supervisors always there to help us when we feel a situation might be more that we can handle,” said Bishop.

New this year, Amarillo CASA has a 50 & 50 campaign. It is designed to be able to recruit more volunteers and the reason why is because of the 361 kids that have a volunteer, there is another 360 kids in the system that don’t have a volunteer.

“The reason why we’ve steeped it up at this level is we’ve just seen a lot of severe neglect and abuse coming into the system lately,” Kelsi Vines, CASA Volunteer Director. “We want to make sure we have advocates ready to take those cases as soon as they come in.”

Volunteering requires at least two hours a week and just eight hours a month. By following a simple formula which is provide a stable, nurturing and consistent adult-like care, once the child realizes you care, they will. Volunteering is why these volunteers don’t give up.”

“We’re lifetime committers,” said Lee and Sharon Carter, CASA Volunteers. “We’re going to do this until we can’t do it anymore.”

“As long as I’m able to crawl out of bed in the morning and do things, this is my life,” said Edgington. “My plan for the rest of my life is volunteer and try to give back.”

Once you make the commitment to volunteer it requires strength and compassion. The reward is seeing a child smile or enter a safe and permanent home.

CASA hosts two public orientations a month. Volunteer sessions are presented at 5:30 p.m. or at noon and feature a presentation and a Q&A session. Many of the volunteers are retired so CASA is hoping to add more younger volunteers to help bridge the age gap.

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