Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and CASA programs throughout Central Texas brought together African-American leaders on Tuesday, May 22, at Huston-Tillotson University for a recruitment campaign to reach more volunteers to help African-American children in foster care.
The kickoff event, Lift Your Voice, aims to reach out to the African-American community to recruit more volunteers while informing the community of the struggles African-American youth face while in foster care. It also highlighted the importance of children benefiting from a one-on-one relationship with African-American volunteers who are more likely to be sensitive to cultural differences children face when placed with a foster family who is not from a similar background.
“We believe African-American communities are deeply committed, concerned and want to make a difference for children in Central Texas,” said Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA chief executive officer.
Right now in the central Texas region, 33 percent of the children served by CASA are African-American while only 6 percent of the volunteers are African-American.
Speaking at the event were Vicki Spriggs, CEO of Texas CASA, Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Judge Texanna Davis, former foster youths and CASA volunteers.
More than 100 people attended the event held at the Huston-Tillotson University, including representatives from CASA programs.
The speakers discussed the epidemic of child abuse and neglect and the need for more volunteers to make a difference in a child’s life.
“These are children from our communities,” said Spriggs. “You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a village to protect a child and make sure they are raised in safe, loving, permanent homes.”
The speakers also focused on the disproportionality of African-American youth in care.
“African-American children make up 12.1 percent of the Texas child population, but are removed at a rate of 26.2 percent of the time,” said Spriggs.
Across Texas and even on a national level, African-American children are being removed from their homes at a faster rate than other children, yet there is no evidence that African-American parents abuse or neglect their children at a higher rate.
Former foster youth Chadwick Sapenter shared his view of how a CASA volunteer made a difference in his life. Chadwick spent his childhood trying to raise his two younger brothers while in an environment of neglect and abuse before ending up in foster care. A CASA volunteer saved his life by caring about him and insisting that he could achieve anything in life he wanted.
“It's not about what happens to you, it's about how you catch it and throw it back,” Sapenter said. “Life is going to happen. Things go on, and you have to adjust.”
Larry Comer, one of the 7,000 compassionate and caring CASA volunteers in Texas, said children need to be protected while in the foster care system. “The CASA volunteer is often the one constant caring adult in a child’s life who advocates for the child’s best interests and helps the child find a safe and loving home,” said Comer.
Tuesday’s event is one of several being held throughout Texas as part of a year-long campaign to recruit more volunteers who want to a make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.
To learn more about the event, Texas CASA and your own local CASA program, visit BecomeACASA.org.