CASA of Tarrant County is celebrating 35 years of supporting foster children in the county, including Arlington and surrounding areas (Mansfield, Kennedale, Grand Prairie, Pantego and Dalworthington Gardens). Various events are planned to increase community awareness, including the popular SuperHeroRun at the Levitt Pavilion on Oct. 27.
The group’s trained volunteers serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates on behalf of abused and abandoned children, age 0-18. Last year, 233 children from the Arlington area were supported, representing 23% of CASA’s countywide case load. Currently, 71 local children in foster care are awaiting an advocate, and the need extends to every zip code in our area.
The work is rewarding for advocates like retired AISD schoolteacher Sylvia Barrett. “The children have been taken from the world they knew and are navigating their way into a foster family, a new school. More changes often occur, and the children lack the coping skills for these upheavals,” Barrett says. “Their CASA advocate becomes their one constant support.”
Advocates are called upon to use their best organizational and people skills, dealing with the children, the foster parents, sometimes the natural parents themselves. There’s the CPS caseworker, teachers, counselors, the judge and the child’s ad litem attorney. A love for children and a desire to serve the community are commonalities among volunteers, who also bring their special skills to bear.
As a retired teacher, Barrett has been able to help decrease the burden on CPS caseworkers by working directly with schoolteachers and counselors, even attending PTA meetings. She has effectively recruited the teachers to help provide the encouragement foster children need to do well in school. “A child loses six months in their academic development just from the change in family and school structures, and they usually are already lagging behind,” Barrett notes. “Children need that education, that high school diploma. A kind word, a pat on the back can make the difference.”
CASA has a growing number of local supporters, including Board Members Giana Ortiz and Victoria Romero-Liguez of Arlington and Heath Coffman of Mansfield. Mary Ann Heugater and Keirschen Maize, LMSW, serve on the Voices for Children Council. City Council Member Victoria Farrar-Myers has also been a supporter.
There are currently 96 CASA advocates from the Arlington area and a need for more, particularly male, African-American and Spanish-language volunteers.
Other locals, along with CASA staff, will serve on the committee to plan the Oct. 27 SuperHeroRun at the Levitt Pavilion, which will feature a 5K run and entertainment for every age. Photo ops will abound, with the appearances of costumed Superheroes, and costume contests for youth, adults and dogs. The event is a fundraiser, an opportunity to increase community awareness of the need and volunteer opportunity, and a special day for family fun.
CASA’s event website, casatarrantsuperherorun.com, provides the October details, along with the reminder that “Every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes.”
Information on how to become an every-day superhero – a CASA advocate – can be found at speakupforachild.org.