Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for the Highland Lakes Area released 2010 data relative to the abused and neglected children the agency serves.
"We served 255 children in 2010," said Michael Melneck, CASA’s Executive Director. "129 volunteers advocated for that very fragile population. 87 new children came into care in our five county region (Blanco, Burnet, Lampasas, Llano and San Saba counties). Our volunteers helped bring about 39 adoptions. 19 children aged out of the system, and at least five started college or some other post-high school education."
Melneck explained that CASA is a great investment for the state and communities. "Our volunteers drove over 125,000 miles and gave over 8,500 hours to their cases. If you put mileage reimbursements and billable hours by attorneys, therapists, counselors and others, we saved our five counties about $1,300,000.00 last year.
The agency trained 23 new volunteers, according to Melneck. "That’s not enough," he said. "We already have 14 new children in 2011, and CASA’s goal is a volunteer advocate for each child. The volunteers took 771 hours of initial and 781 hours of continuing training last year.
"CASA works," Melneck said. "A child with a CASA volunteer is far more likely to finish high school, to be adopted, to leave state care sooner for a safe, permanent home. The courts followed CASA’s recommendations nearly 88% of the time. And our office is extremely fortunate in being able to accept 100% of the children who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. Not all programs have the resources."
"But our resources are stretched paper thin, and the threatened budget cuts will hurt all CASA programs’ ability to serve the children. We have a compassionate staff of professionals who work with our gifted volunteers to make these little lives better. We’ll have a new training class very soon. Community support is vital, and we’re beyond grateful for the open hearts that make our program work."
Contact CASA at 325-388-3440 or at www.highlandlakescasa.com