Aim High and Help CASA 3

CASA of Tarrant County needs your help to save abused and neglected children.

No one would argue that abused and neglected children are the most vulnerable members of any society. Without the maturity or resources to assume agency over their own lives, these children can become prey to repeated instances of trauma. While the sadness of this plight can affect anyone, few people understand the scope of child abuse within their own communities. What’s more, fewer know how to help, and reach out a hand to nurture and protect these vulnerable children.

CASA of Tarrant County works exclusively to help those children removed from abusive homes. Every year in Tarrant County, child protective services intervenes to rescue thousands of children from abusive situations. Child Protective Services assumes legal responsibility for these children, who may get placed in foster homes or other facilities.

In these scenarios, siblings can get separated, and children can disappear into an overburdened child welfare system. CASA, which has 350 active volunteers in Tarrant County, works to ensure that this doesn’t happen. CASA provides a voice for the defenseless, stands up for children in the courtroom, and works to find permanent homes and better environments for the abused and neglected.

“We were founded in 1983 here in Tarrant County,” says Natalie Stalmach, development director for CASA of Tarrant County. “We serve children that have been removed by child protective services and placed in foster care. Once that happens, a court case begins, so we train volunteers to be an extra set of eyes and ears for the judge.”

Thanks to these efforts, a judge can make fully-informed decisions that truly serve the child’s best interests. A singular organization, CASA relies upon the efforts of it volunteers to advocate for children.

“We’re a unique entity in what we do within Tarrant County,” says Natalie. “Because we’re broken up by court jurisdiction, every county in North Texas has its own CASA program. We focus on children in Fort Worth, Arlington, Mansfield, and Benbrook. Dallas has its own CASA, and we’re a nationwide effort with 72 programs in Texas, and 900 across the country.”

Because of the length and complexity of children’s court cases, CASA asks for a sizable commitment from its volunteers.

“Our volunteers make big commitments,” says Natalie. “We ask for 30 hours of training, and the commitment of 12 months to follow a court case. During this time, volunteers visit children at home, appear before the judge at each hearing to make updates, and ensure that the children don’t fall through the cracks of the CPS system.”

CASA of Tarrant County understands that this level of commitment isn’t for everyone. To enable a broader section of the community to support its efforts for children, CASA has planned its first annual CASA Clay Shoot. This fundraiser will take place May 19th at the Alpine Shooting Range, and provides two opportunities for the public to get involved.

“We’ll have two sessions,” says Natalie. “Registration for the morning event begins at 8AM, with the first pull at 9AM. After this session is done, we’ll do a lunch raffle and announce morning awards from 12 to 1:30PM. Those who want to participate in the afternoon session can arrive at 11AM, with the event scheduled for 2PM.”

CASA hopes to have between 300 and 500 participants, and has already attracted some big names in its efforts to raise awareness. Fort Worth’s Mayor Betsy Price will serve as honorary chairperson, while XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil, will serve as the event’s presenting sponsor. The CASA Clay Shoot has also attracted media sponsors, including this magazine, for support of its worthwhile cause.

The event hopes to raise $100,000, which seems a princely sum until you understand the resources needed to accomplish CASA’s mission.

“The money from this event will go towards our general operating expenses,” says Natalie. “It costs about $2,000 a year per child to do this work.”

CASA of Tarrant County has plenty of children to look out for. In 2015, the latest year for which statistics are currently available, Tarrant County had the second-highest number of reported cases of child abuse in Texas.

“It’s a heavy subject,” says Natalie. “Which is why we like to hold events like the CASA Clay Shoot to raise awareness. People understand what it’s about, without it being too in your face. As an organization, our goal is to change the trajectory of children’s lives. We’re hopeful we can communicate our mission without too much heaviness, and let people have a good time while helping a great cause.”