By Shannon Contreras
The child welfare system as a whole continued to struggle in 2021, and kids’ situations continued to be difficult. But CASA remained committed to being there for kids when it mattered most.
Thankfully, a record 806 CASA volunteers showed up to advocate for the best interest of 1422 children in Travis County in 2021, and the determination of those volunteers inspired us every day. Their fortitude and determination reflected the enhanced levels of advocacy that were required by extreme circumstances.
806 CASA volunteers showed up to advocate for the best interest of 1422 children in Travis County in 2021.
Texas’ Continuing Placement Crisis
The most troubling circumstance was, and continues to be, the statewide placement crisis. In 2021, an average of 312 children were sleeping in CPS offices statewide each month, and among the children served by CASA of Travis County, the instances of children sleeping in offices more than doubled from 2020. Our volunteers and staff also reported 47% more incidences of suspected abuse or neglect compared to 2020, and 16% more instances of self-harm or suicidal thoughts among the children we serve.
This year, CASA of Travis County’s 806 volunteers made 3867 recommendations in the best interest of the children they served, and 95% of the time either the judge ordered what CASA recommended or the parties agreed to CASA’s recommendations prior to a hearing. These recommendations were informed not only by getting to know the kids they serve, but by more than 32,000 contacts and conversations with kids’ families & relatives, kids’ placements, teachers, therapists, doctors, and others. On average, in 2021 volunteers had 10% more of these kinds of conversations than in prior years, reflecting the enhanced advocacy required by extreme circumstances.
And we've seen our enhanced advocacy pay off for kids. A CASA volunteer helped to successfully reunify a 15-year-old with his biological father, after nearly five years in the child welfare system and more than 50 different placements. Another CASA volunteer stood by a child through two failed adoptions until the exact right home could be found and that child went to live with his forever family. CASA successfully advocated for an 11-year-old to be permanently placed with her aunt, getting the girl out of the back-and-forth between CPS offices and juvenile detention that had been her experience for several months. In 2021, CASA volunteers repeatedly showed up for kids who were struggling in school, or who were stuck in CPS offices, or who were placed far away from their homes, or even who experienced the death of a parent or caregiver.
We do not know what 2022 will hold, but one thing is completely clear: CASA must - and will – continue to rise to every occasion for kids who need us. Thank you for showing up for CASA, enabling us to show up for kids.
Join us in advocating for every child who needs CASA! Learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer here, or apply directly today.
Advocacy Awareness 2022