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United Way Presents: CASA of the Sabine Neches Region is the voice for abused and neglected children

By Dawn Burleigh

(Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a 21-part series on the partners of United Way of Orange County.)

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of CASA of the Sabine Neches Region provide a consistent presence for the child and family and facilitate nurturing relationships for the child. CASA volunteers focus on one child or sibling group at a time to help find, engage and strengthen a support network for the child and family.

The need for volunteers for these children is high. In 2020, there were 16 volunteers and 283 children in care in Orange County.

“There were 699 children in all six counties that we cover,” Executive Director Codie Vasquez said. “The ideal is to have a volunteer for every child.”

In some cases, more than one child is involved in the case, so to cover all the children last year, there was a need for 113 volunteers.

“The ultimate goal is to have a volunteer for every child,” Vasquez said.

At this time, the organization has 21 volunteers and between January and June 2021, 141 children where in care.

“United Way has really helped with recruiting volunteers for us,” Vasquez said. “They promote the different agencies which helps bring awareness.”

Funding for the organization comes from a grant through United Way and Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). However, VOCA funding greatly decreased due to an overall decrease in the federal Crime Victims Fund (CVF), which funds VOCA.

While the VOCA Fix Act was passed by the Senate by redirecting fines and penalties from deferred and non-prosecution agreements to begin replenishing the Crime Victims Fund, this does not help CASA through the 2022 fiscal year budget.

In the meantime, it is grants through United Way which helps the program continue.

“Funding is not taxpayer dollars,” Vasquez said. “It comes from penalties and restitutions. With the passage of the VOCA Fix Act, that will help next year.”

Before receiving a case assignment, CASAS volunteers undergo thorough training in courtroom procedure, social services, the juvenile justice system, and the special needs of abused and neglected children.

Establishing a relationship with the child is one of the most important things a CASA volunteer does. The ideal relationship is one that maximizes the CASA volunteer’s ability to advocate successfully for the child.

For more information on how to become a volunteer contact De’mo Moffett at 409-886-2272 or via email at dmoffett@casasnr.org.

To make a donation to United Way of Orange County, visit https://www.uwoctx.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=1