VAN ZANDT COUNTY (KYTX) - An organization that helps neglected and abused East Texas kids is expanding, but desperately needs more volunteers. CASA appoints volunteers to be the voice for these children in court if they're removed from their homes.
The need to help Van Zandt County children is continuing to rise year after year. So CASA has opened a brand new office at the First United Methodist Church in Canton.
Ken Hackney learned first-hand how important CASA volunteers are, when he and his wife took custody of their infant grandson in 2007.
"The situation we were involved in was considered neglect where the child was not growing as he should," he says.
A CASA volunteer helped them deal with the process.
"We had the child from 4 months old until 18 months old and then he was able to go back to his mom," he says.
His experience with that CASA volunteer made him want to become one.
"It does so much good, not just for the child but for the parents also, and assist the court as eyes and ears as to what's going on," Hackney says.
The growing volume of East Texas children in need is getting hard to keep up with.
"In Van Zandt County last year there were 153 children in CPS care and CASA was only able to serve 55 percent of those kids because we don't have enough volunteers," says East Texas CASA Executive Director Patty Garner.
She opened a new office in Wood County in January, and is excited to spread awareness by opening another one in Van Zandt County.
"Right now in Van Zandt County we only have 10 volunteers and we could very easily use 15 more immediately
Since January, the Mineola office has already added 8 new volunteers, and the ability to help many more children.
"These children are removed because of abuse and neglect and a lot of that abuse and neglect stems from substance abuse. We're seeing that so much with our children," Garner says.
That's why volunteers who become a voice for these kids are literally life changing.
"There's somebody there taking care of that child, taking an interest in that child, other than the court-appointed guardian. They don't have the time to do what CASA can do, so it is a program that is needed here, now," Hackney says.
To become a CASA volunteer you need to go through 32 hours of training, and you don't need to know anything prior to that. You just need to be able to give your time so if you're interested call any of the offices in Van Zandt, Wood and Smith County.
Click here for more information.