Support growing for more foster homes, volunteers
In an effort to raise more awareness, the Matagorda County Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the mission of the Gulf Coast CASA and the Houston Serenity Place Child Placement Agency during Monday’s meeting of commissioner’s court.
According to representatives from Gulf Coast CASA and Houston Serenity Place, Texas had 66,382 victims of child abuse and 52,397 of those children were removed from their parents. In 2018, 100 children from Matagorda County were removed and placed in foster care.
But of those 100 in the county, none were placed in foster homes in Matagorda County. According to a Houston Serenity Place representative, children from Matagorda County were placed in homes from Galveston to the Woodlands this past year.
“Counties in rural American need to take care of their own,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald over the need for more foster homes in the county.
CASA officials said that Matagorda County is a growing community with a diverse socioeconomic population and varying needs, concerns and challenges. Officials stated that numbers of children in Matagorda County needing foster care is expected to increase and presently there is a shortage of foster homes and volunteers in this county.
With that movie as a backdrop, 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.
“We meet with the judge and we give them an opinion of what is best,” Bullard said. “Our opinion is extremely important to the judge.”
Bullard said when a child first enters the foster care system; the first option is to find a placement for the child with family.
“If that is not possible, then they have to go to foster care where they can be adopted out,” Bullard said.
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.”
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.”