By CHRIS AGEE
The latest crop of volunteers in the local Court Appointed Special Advocates program were sworn in recently, just as April brings about Child Abuse Awareness Month.
CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties added four new advocates to the program, each of them having completed 30 hours of training. They will now be appointed to a child or set of siblings removed from their home because of abuse.
Advocates serve as a judge's eyes and ears outside of the courtroom during a child abuse or neglect trial. Volunteers generally spend between 15 and 20 hours per month with the young victim or victims in each case and advocates for their best interests.
Executive Director Barbara Tucker explained advocates offer some sense of stability to the lives of children in difficult situations.
"A lot of kids move from place to place," she said. "CASA will follow them."
In many circumstances, a child's advocate is one of the few constant presences in his or her life.
CASA of Palo Pinto and Parker Counties is one of 69 programs in the state, which combined serve 206 Texas counties.
According to a press release, nearly 23,000 children were included in the CASA program last year, with 7,260 volunteers on hand to handle the cases.
More than half of those in the child protection system do not have such advocates in the court system.
Local volunteers advocate for 104 children in Palo Pinto County and 137 in Parker County.
For those interested in volunteering or learning more about the CASA program, contact a representative at (817) 599-6224 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next class for prospective advocates begins April 6 and will conclude May 4. Classes will be held Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.