The air was crisp; the sky was gloomy, but it didn’t stop the celebration. Over 50 people were present Thursday morning for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Central Texas’s groundbreaking ceremony.
JoAnne Germer, Board President of CASA of Central Texas, opened for the long line of guest speakers by introducing owner of Corridor Title and former Texas Representative Patrick Rose.
Germer said she was overjoyed that after 30 years of service to the area, CASA was finally able to plant permanent roots in Hays County, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Rose and many, many others.
Germer noted that for the last two years, Corridor Title had partnered with CASA to host a “highly successful” annual golf tournament and have raised “close to $60,000”; the organization has already begun preparations for the 2019 tournament, which will be held at Kissing Tree Golf Club in October.
During his speech, Rose recognized the local elected officials in attendance and the donors who were instrumental in allowing CASA to do what it does every day.
“CASA is truly a partnership between the public sector and the private sector,” Rose said. “It is very important to thank each of our elected officials, who are here. Your collective and individual work is very foundational for CASA’s success.”
For the last 34 years, CASA of Central Texas has provided advocacy services for local children in Central Texas.
In 2018, with 261 active volunteers serving as Guardians ad Litem, CASA helped 597 children from Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties. However, an estimated 560 children have been without the voice of a CASA.
“In a world of pop heroes, sports heroes and fantasy heroes, it’s easy to overlook the work of real heroes,” Rose said, “When I say that I mean ordinary everyday people like us who are trying to work hard and make the country, the world, the community a better place. There is no better example of that than CASA.”
Rose said what CASA does is “heroic work; it’s significant work, and the growing number of abused and neglected children in our community make it increasingly critical work.”
“Every day in this region three children become victims of abuse or neglect for the first time,” Rose said. “Last year, there were 597 children in state foster or substitute care inside our footprint. These children need a voice; they need an independent spokesperson to protect their wellbeing. They need someone to help prevent repeat abuse. They need someone who is a trained advocate, who will help them get into a permanent home…”
Rose said a facility like the CASA of Central Texas Training and Support Center in San Marcos will allow “us to grow the number of CASAs” for there to be a CASA for every child in the region.
The Training and Support facility in San Marcos will be 6,000 sq. feet with room to expand an additional 1,000 sq. feet; it will include 15 offices for private, confidential casework and a 48-seat training center for new volunteers.
According to Mayor Hughson, San Marcos children make up about half of the Hays County caseload for CASA.
“With the increasing number of children being removed from their homes for safety and protection, there are about 200 San Marcos Children that do not have an advocate,” Hughson said. “And as the city grows, that number will grow in the future. How wonderful it is that we live in a community with so many volunteers; what a special program it is to have this many volunteers give so selfless of their time and their talents to help the children that very much need someone to advocate for them…”
In his comments, Judge Boyer spoke of the impact CASAs have on the children they advocate for; Boyer said everyone in the courtroom has a lawyer, and the children have a CASA advocate, who knows them personally, can speak for them, can provide the judges with the child’s needs and are the closest to them.
“I cannot tell you how invaluable and important the CASA workers are,” Judge Boyer said. “I’ve seen the kids look up, turn around and look at them, while we’re in the middle of proceedings. They trust them, and that is so important because then we know that when they are representing those kids that they are telling us the real deal.”
Brenda McCoy Remme spoke on behalf of her mother, Miriam, and her brothers and explained how the CASA volunteers and their dedication had been their inspiration for their contributions to the Training and Support Center project.
Remme said a friend of hers had traveled to Dallas this week to continue to advocate for a child from Hays County; “these advocates will follow them to wherever they go.”
According to Rose, the number of volunteers, the programmatic work and the dollars of support of CASA of Central Texas have grown four-fold over Norma Blackwell’s 15 years as Executive Director of CASA of Central Texas.
“In Norma, we have one of the most respected CASA leaders in the state of Texas,” Rose said. “And we ought to be very proud of that. This program takes everybody; it takes the judiciary. It takes the public sector; It takes the private sector. It takes the volunteer.”
The training and support center is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
CASA of Central Texas is always looking for new volunteers and holds several 5-week training sessions throughout the year. Applications can be filled out and must be electronically submitted to the organization’s website at https://www.casacentex.org/volunteer/.