CASA CTA Focuses on Keeping Families Together
June is National Reunification Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of keeping families involved in the child welfare system together, and recognizing how the community can better support these families.
When a family becomes involved with the child welfare system, the first priority of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and CASA for the Cross Timbers Area is to help reunite children with their parents whenever safe and possible – and during this month and beyond, CASA volunteers strive to engage and connect with the families so that they have the support and resources needed to have their children safely come back home.
“Some people believe that once children are removed from home and placed into foster care, no further help for them is needed,” said Mindy Wooley, executive director of CASA CTA. “The reality, though, is that foster care is not meant to be a permanent situation, and most kids in foster care experience a sense of grief and loss after being removed from their home, regardless of what their situation was like.”
CASA CTA recruits and trains Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA volunteers, to stay by a child’s side throughout their time in foster care, advocating first for reunification when safe and possible. These volunteers get to know the children, parents and family as well as others involved in their lives—including foster parents, therapists, teachers and attorneys—collaborating with everyone to put family reunification as the first priority whenever it is safe and possible.
“We know that the vast majority of parents love their children and want what’s best for them, and the parents of the children we serve are no exception,” said Wooley. “We want to support parents during this time so that they have the tools and resources needed so that their children can live with them safely, because going back home is the best possible outcome for these kids.”
Many times, parents involved with the foster care system struggle to access the resources, support and education they need to be able to complete services ordered by the judge.
“Our CASA volunteers can make a monumental difference by helping bridge the access gap and connecting families to services and support,” Wooley said.
CASA volunteers also make sure the children and parents they serve have a support system of family and other caring adults who are able to help in whatever ways needed, and stay involved long after CASA and DFPS involvement ends.
“If parents and children have a good support system, it’s much more likely that a plan for reunification will be successful and sustainable,” Wooley said. “That’s what we want for the children we serve – for them to be able to grow up safe, happy and supported, surrounded by people who love them.”