AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Tavis Smiley, New York Times best-selling author and host of the late-night television show Tavis Smiley on PBS and The Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International (PRI), is lending his voice to support Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in creating positive change in the lives of foster children. Smiley served as the opening keynote speaker at the 2016 Texas CASA Conference held in Dallas, Texas, at which he issued a call for the recruitment of additional community volunteers to serve as powerful voices for vulnerable children navigating the child protection system.
Volunteers, staff and board members from local CASA programs participated in the conference to enhance their training, leadership and advocacy skills as they seek to serve children across the state. Smiley contributed to the agenda by sharing his personal experience on how he overcame obstacles that threatened to derail his life. Thanks in part to mentors in his life, Smiley was able to carve out a role in the world where today he is a recognized champion for human rights and empowerment issues and is committed to inspiring the next generation of leaders. It is in this role that Smiley called upon participants of the Texas CASA Conference to join in fueling a powerful movement in which CASA volunteers are actively sharing their stories with others in the community to increase the recruitment of volunteers. The goal is to ensure that every Texas child in foster care, who is in need of a volunteer, has one.
When a child enters foster care because his or her home is no longer safe, a CASA volunteer can be appointed by a judge to represent a child’s best interests. A volunteer guides a foster child through the overburdened and complex child protection system with the goal of reaching a safe and permanent home. Volunteers spend a significant amount of time with the child getting to know them and their individual needs.
The work of a CASA volunteer also involves gathering information from everyone involved in a child’s daily life, including family members, foster parents, teachers, doctors and social workers. CASA volunteers use the information they collect to report to the judge, advocating for the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs. They are not foster parents; they are highly trained community advocates acting as a powerful voice for a child or sibling group.
Smiley’s keynote address at the conference spoke to how powerful voices, coming together as one, can create a lasting impact in the lives of children which creates a community where no child is overlooked or forgotten.
How to Help
To learn how you can help children in your community, find your local CASA program at BecomeACASA.org. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and willing to commit to at least one year of advocacy. No special educational background or experience is required.
About Texas CASA
Austin-based Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is the statewide organization of 72 local CASA programs that recruit and train volunteers to advocate for children in the child protection system. Last year, 9,131 well-trained volunteers served 27,953 children in 213 of the 254 Texas counties. Texas CASA supports the local CASA programs by advocating for effective public policy for children in the child protection system and by providing funding, training and technical assistance to program staff, board and volunteers.
CASA volunteers are everyday members of the community doing extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. They are screened and trained, then appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child or sibling group in the foster care system. CASA volunteers work to move the children through foster care and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.