Q&A for Hola Texas

Submitted by CASA Tarrant County 

September 24, 2021


Did you know that thousands of Texas children and teens are removed from their homes each year due to abuse and neglect? One group on the front lines of support for these vulnerable kids is CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a non-profit organization that trains community volunteers to advocate for kids in foster care. More than 11,000 Texans advocated for abused and neglected children last year alone—but that’s still not enough volunteers to serve every child, and CASA has a particular need for more Hispanic and Spanish-fluent community members to join the program. 

Hola Texas sat down with Jaime Hernandez, child advocacy specialist for CASA of Tarrant County, to find out more:

Hola Texas: Why is CASA seeking additional Hispanic and Spanish-fluent volunteers?

Jaime Hernandez: “The child protection courts have seen an increase in cases of child neglect or abuse, likely due to issues related to the pandemic. In that number are many children with Hispanic or Latinx background—approximately 37% in Tarrant County, for example, which mirrors statistics statewide. CASA needs advocates who can relate to children and families within their cultural context and help them navigate the child welfare system when their primary language is Spanish.”

HT: What kind of person makes a good CASA (court appointed special advocate)? Are special skills required?

JH: “A good CASA is someone who cares deeply about the welfare of a child who is going through a very difficult period. You don’t need specific skills or education credentials to become a CASA, just a willingness to give your time and to learn about the ways to help children within the framework of the child protection system, which we address in our training program for new advocates. For volunteers working with Hispanic/Latinx children, knowledge of the culture and language is also important.”

HT: What are common misconception(s) about being a CASA or about kids in foster care? 

JH: “A common misconception about CASA is that ‘it takes too much time.’ Advocacy only requires only a few hours a month, working with the assistance of a CASA staff member. Many of our advocates are employed full time and/or have families and can fulfill their advocacy responsibilities very well. 

“One of the greatest myths about children in foster care is that they need a home through some fault of their own—that they are ‘bad’ kids no one wants or can handle. This is simply not true. Children’s reaction to trauma varies—some children act out, some withdraw, some resolve to live as if nothing occurred. Many kids in foster care have had a tough start to their life, and as a result need support to heal. As an advocate, you can be a part of the network providing that support and serve as a voice for a child who needs one.”

HT: Besides becoming an advocate, how can people support CASA? 

JH: “CASA needs donations, help with events, and help spreading the word. If you can’t become an advocate, but know someone who might be a good fit, tell them about CASA. If you are a member of a community organization or an employee group, ask us to make a presentation.” 

Find out more about CASA’s work in Tarrant County at speakupforachild.org.  

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