Posted by Carl Gerhardt on Feb 12, 2019
On February 12, 2019, Shellie Tyrrell, Recruiting Manager of the Child Advocates of Montgomery County (CASA) of Montgomery, spoke to the Magnolia Rotary Club Membership about the CASA organization that she is a part of. Pictured above from left to right are: Sholanda Jackson (CASA Intern), Shellie Tyrrell, and Kim Kirchner (CASA Intern).
Shellie Tyrrell explained thatwhen a child enters the foster care system because his or her home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help them. That volunteer is called a Court Appointed Special Advocate®, or CASA. CASA volunteers are screened and highly trained and then appointed by judges to represent and advocate for a child’s best interests in the child protection system. CASA volunteers are each assigned to help one child or set of siblings at a time, so they can focus on giving that child or sibling group the individualized advocacy and attention they need. CASA volunteers save taxpayers money and children’s futures by helping children find safe, permanent homes as soon as possible. CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County provides valuable volunteer advocacy for every abused child in this area. CASA volunteers serve as the “eyes and ears” for the judge in child welfare cases. This includes researching each child’s situation and making objective recommendations to help them reclaim their childhoods from abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers are frequently the only stable presence in these children’s lives as they navigate the foster care system. These volunteers bring three critical qualities to their work: they focus on one case at a time; they bring a unique perspective to the court case; and their sole objective is representing the best interests of the child.
Shellie told everyone that CASA is always in need of volunteers, especially male volunteers because male volunteers currently only make up 30% of the CASA volunteers. She also explained that in the 254 Texas counties, there are only 175 CASA centers. However, Montgomery County, Texas is one of the three largest centers in the state and they handle a large number of cases. If fact, in 2018, they handles a little over 700 cases with only 300 volunteers.
Shellie explained that most children come into the CASA system from CPS and those kids have been either neglected or physically / mentally abused. Because this is the case, only 20% of the parents of these kids ever get their kids back. That means that the other 80% have to be placed in foster homes (within 24 hours) or later into a relative's home. Family re-unification is the main objective of CASA in order to get kids back into more familiar surroundings that help them to heal faster and better. While kids are in CASA cases, CASA acts as their court appointed guardian and makes all decisions that a normal parent would for their kids.
Shellie then spoke about what it takes to become a CASA volunteer. All volunteers are screened and background checked as well as highly trained before taking on a case. After training, the volunteer is appointed to a case by a judge to represent the best interest of the child. The volunteer also serves as the eyes and ears of the judge. Volunteers must commit to 8-10 hours a month for a period of 12 months. Their training consists of 4 hours a day for three days. A supervisor is also assigned to each volunteer to help answer questions the volunteer might have.
For more information about CASA or how to become a volunteer, go to: