For the Children

Annual Casino Night raises funds for CASA organization

In an effort to raise much-needed funds, the Matagorda and Wharton County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) held its fifth annual Casino Night fundraiser at the El Campo Civic Center Aug. 8.

The event has been held annual to help raise funds for foster children being seen in Matagorda and Wharton counties.

Charles Brookhouser, board member for CASA, said the event raised $94,000 in sponsorships, auctions and donations on the evening.

“We had 20 people from Bay City ride up in a chartered bus for the event this year,” Brookhouser said.

Tables were set up casino style and winners received tickets for drawings for various prizes.

Brookhouser said CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is working hard to recruit new volunteers for Matagorda County children that are in the foster care system.

“We represent these children in court,” said Marian Bullard, recruiter and trainer for CASA serving Brazoria, Matagorda and Wharton counties. “We meet with these children and we are their eyes, ears and their voice in court. We want to speak to what the child wants and use our best judgment for what is best for the child.”

When a child enters the foster care system because his or her home is no longer safe due to abuse or neglect, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to advocate for the best interests of the child or youth and other settings.

These advocates conduct an independent investigation by reviewing all pertinent documentation and records and interview the child, parents, social workers, foster parents, teachers, therapist, daycare providers and other relevant persons to determine the facts and circumstances of the child’s situation.

These advocates spend a significant time getting to know the child and gain his or her trust. They work to determine the thoughts and feelings of the child and seek solutions to achieve resolution of problems and to foster positive steps toward achieving permanency.

In Wharton and Matagorda counties alone, there are more than 100 children in the foster care system and presently there are not enough volunteers available to serve as advocates for these children.

“We are in dire need for volunteers to step up and be advocates for these kids,” Bullard said. “We need each child in the system to have an advocate to speak for them. We can’t have that — we need volunteers.”

All advocates or CASAs are volunteers and receive no monetary or material compensation. The reward comes from helping a child find a happy, safe home — helping to make a difference in a child’s life.

All CASAs have to be over the age of 21 and pass extensive criminal and CPS background checks and go through extensive 30 hours of training and then are sworn in by a judge since they are court-appointed and they must commit for one year to support a child.

Bullard stressed that being a CASA volunteer does not require any special education or background but simply the desire to help abused or neglected children find a safe and permanent home.

“We need the volunteer to commit just four hours a month to these children,” Bullard said. “That is not very much when we consider how much time we spend on our phones or watching movies — its one hour a week for a child.”

CASA programs need help spreading the word about the organization in order to recruit volunteers and garner other resources. Local program spokespeople are available to speak to organizations, corporations or faith-based groups about how to become involved in many different capacities.

Bullard said if someone feels they can’t serve as a CASA, and then maybe they would consider being a friend of CASA.

“Those are people that donate to CASA and right now we are in need of toys and money to help make sure these children have a great holiday season,” Bullard said.

Bullard said she needs the Matagorda County community to step up and help these children that might be their neighbors or a child that lives down the street from them.

“I cannot stress the urgent need we have at this time,” Bullard said. “I need people to believe in what we are doing and come out and support us. It takes a tribe to take care of these children. It takes all of us pulling together to place these children in a safe environment.

“They deserve an opportunity to thrive just like us,” Bullard said. “You are helping the children of our community by serving as a CASA volunteer. We just need to come together as a community to help these children who have been abused and neglected in their homes. I would ask that you pray on it because we need you.

Those wishing to gain more information are urged to visit the website www.becomeacasa.org. or call 877-894-CASA. There are 71 CASA programs in 207 counties in Texas or contact Bullard directly at 979-240-1398.

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