FORT WORTH, Texas – CASA of Tarrant County was recently awarded a $10,000 grant from Texas Bar Foundation to serve additional children who are at-risk of aging out of foster care. Tarrant County had the second highest number of child abuse victims in 2016. Of the hundreds of children who are removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, most eventually return home, are placed with relatives, or are adopted. However, too many children never find a home, meaning they stay in foster care until they turn 18. Once they are an adult, they are no longer eligible for services and start their adulthood without a family.
In 2016, 1,250 Texas children aged out of foster care, with the most being from North Texas. These children are at risk of becoming homeless, human trafficking victims, and experiencing other negative life outcomes. Half of them are in jail by the time they are 23.
In December 2015, federal judge Janis Jack ruled that Texas foster children are having their constitutional rights violated by languishing in a system where “rape, abuse, psychotropic medication, and instability are the norm,”3 . Judge Janis Jack added that these children “almost uniformly leave custody more damaged than when they entered.” CASA wants to stop this by providing trained volunteers to speak up for their best interests. CASA volunteers help improve a child’s safety while they are in foster care, and with new research-based interventions like Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), CASA volunteers are leading the way in finding permanent families for children to prevent them from aging out.
Funding from the Texas Bar Foundation will go towards a new Casework Supervisor who manages a special team of advocates working with children at risk of aging out of foster care. Advocates with use Collaborative Family Engagement tools to find and engage family members and friends to support foster children, increasing their social capital and identifying sources of permanency. There are currently over 300 children in Tarrant County at risk of aging out, and CASA will work to provide each child with an advocate to speak up for their unique needs and find a permanent home before it is too late. The combination of this grant from the Texas Bar Foundation and Tarrant County community members will help ensure every child who needs a CASA volunteer will receive one.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $18 million grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation. The Texas Bar Foundation solicits charitable contributions and provides funding to enhance the rule of law and the system of justice in Texas, especially for programs that relate to legal assistance for the undeserved, the administration of justice, ethics in the legal profession, the encouragement of legal research, publications and forums, and education of the third branch of government.
So far in 2017, CASA of Tarrant County has served more children than ever before. As of November 30, 2017, CASA has already served 989 abused and neglected children with 405 passionate community volunteers. These volunteers speak up for what is in the best interest for children in foster care, including advocating for a permanent home and family for every child. CASA of Tarrant County was started in 1983 through the late Judge Scott Moore, CPS Director Wayne Hairgrove, and community members Rhoda Bernstein and Monna Loftis.
Over the last 30 years, thousands of children have been served by CASA volunteers who assist the family court system by representing the best interests of children in the State’s care. CASA currently needs more Page 3 of 3 volunteers to advocate for our community’s most vulnerable children. For more information on how to become a CASA volunteer and how to help children at risk of aging out of foster care, please contact Caitlyn Ussery, Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817.877.5891 or sign up for an information session at www.speakupforachild.org. Upcoming information sessions will be held at the CASA office Friday December 8 from 12pm to 1pm and Thursday December 14 from 6pm to 7pm. Information sessions are held every week and will begin again in January 2018.