Texarkana, USA – December is a month full of fun holiday celebrations and traditions for loved ones to enjoy together. However, there are many children in the foster care system across northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas who do not have the same opportunities to experience a joyful holiday season.
Due to circumstances that are no fault of their own, these children have been removed from their homes and placed in the child welfare system, many times far from everyone they know and love. This holiday season, CASA for Children urges you to be mindful of all the children who are spending the holidays in foster care, waiting to be reunited with their families or adopted.
“December is meant to be a festive time to spend with your family,” said Brandy Eldridge, executive director of CASA for Children. “Without the opportunity to share the holidays with the loved ones in their lives, children in foster care are deprived of precious memories that make the holiday season so special.”
In Bowie, Cass, Miller, Hempstead, Little River, Howard, Lafayette and Nevada counties, 606 children were in the foster care system last year. Every child in foster care needs someone to support them through this difficult time. They need a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer to speak up for them and give them a better chance at a brighter future – and the happy holiday season they deserve.
CASA for Children has served 419 children this year. More than 87 CASA volunteers spoke up for children in our community who, through no fault of their own, ended up in foster care due to abuse or neglect.
“CASA volunteers get to know the child and provide a voice for them in court, standing by their side and ensuring they are kept safe and their needs are met while in foster care,” said Eldridge.
Take this true story of Sam. As the oldest of three children raised in a home with a mother struggling with substance abuse, 11-year-old Sam and his siblings were removed from their mother due to neglect and separated from each other.
Sam’s brother and sister eventually settled into the home of an appropriate relative. Sam, however, struggled with behavior issues due to the trauma he had experienced, and the relative felt that they would not be able to meet his needs. Thus, Sam was left to languish in care.
Luckily, Sam had a CASA volunteer who never gave up on him.
She knew that Sam’s father had not been involved in his life in many years. However, despite his mother’s harsh words about his father, Sam always spoke of his dad in a very positive way – so she decided to locate him.
Sam’s father told a very different story, explaining that he had tried to maintain contact with Sam, but his mother often made it impossible to locate them. He was excited to hear that Sam wanted to see him, and they quickly arranged a meeting.
Today, Sam lives with his father and they have a wonderful, healthy relationship; and he regularly visits his brother and sister. Thanks to his CASA volunteer’s dedication and advocacy, Sam gets to spend the holidays creating new, happy memories in his forever home.
Stories like these are the reason why CASA volunteers are so imperative in the life of a child in foster care. They need someone who can get to know them, advocate for them, and help ensure they are surrounded by supportive, caring people even after CASA and CPS involvement ends.
During the holiday season, these children can be especially vulnerable. Each year, more and more children enter the foster care system and don’t get the opportunity to spend the holiday season baking, opening presents and participating in other family traditions.
“We need more members of the community to step up and get involved,” said Eldridge. “Whether you become a CASA volunteer, a foster parent or provide support to a local foster family or a donation to CASA, you can make a difference this holiday season.”
Consider joining the movement and becoming a CASA volunteer. The next volunteer training class will begin in January. To learn more call 903-792-1030, or visit www.BecomeACASA.org. To make an end of year gift to the local program, visit www.casatexarkana.org.