If you have a passion to help children in need, CASA of West Texas has a job for you. The pay isn't great — in fact, there is no pay — but the rewards, officials say, are tremendous.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) will begin accepting applications for volunteer child advocates Monday at its Big Spring office located at 310 Scurry, said Patty Pisklak, executive director.
Volunteers are appointed by the court to serve as advocates for children who have been placed in foster homes because of abuse or neglect. As advocates, they maintain regular contact with the children as efforts are made to place them in a permanent home situation.
“Our volunteers ensure that all (the child's) needs are being met while in foster care, whether it be psychological needs, educational needs or the like,” Pisklak said. “They also present to the court what they believe are in the best interests of the child, as far as long-term care is concerned. Also, they advocate for a safe home for that child, whether that means returning them to their parents, placing them with another relative or maintaining them in foster care.”
In the past year, Howard County has seen a 28 percent increase in the number of children placed in foster homes. There are currently 15 CASA volunteers in this area handling 136 cases, Pisklak said.
“We'd like to have 30 volunteers here in Big Spring,” she added.
Persons submitting applications must undergo a background check, then pass through an interview process before being accepted as CASA volunteers. A two-week training course follows before volunteers can begin receiving cases.
Pisklak said the work is demanding, but the rewards are remarkable, if intangible.
“It's just knowing you've made a difference,” she said. “You get to see a positive outcome for these children. Our volunteers visit children frequently and develop a relationship with those children. Often, they're the most constant presence in that child's life.
“There are a lot of people involved as a team helping the child during this process, but I will say I've seen a child's eyes light up when they see their CASA person,” Pisklak added.
For more information on the volunteer program, contact Pisklak at 432-683-1114 or 877-315-8346.