By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
The booming North Texas economy continues to bring new families to Denton County. Unfortunately, this also means that more children than ever will end up in the foster care system.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County relies on volunteers to become the child’s advocate as they navigate the foster and court system. The organization helped more than 600 children in 2019 and expects this number to grow to more than 700 in 2020.
Last year, Executive Director Debbie Jensen was at a Denton County Commissioners Court meeting making a plea for volunteers and funding to meet the increased need. After she spoke, a CoServ Employee who was at the meeting tapped her on the shoulder and suggested she apply for a CoServ Charitable Foundation grant.
“We were able to jump on that and quickly do it and it really is making a difference already and we’re able to plan for what we know we’re going to need this year,” Debbie said. “We really appreciate the support.”
CCF awarded $10,000 to CASA of Denton County on Thursday. CASA will use the funds to help pay for recruitment efforts to find more volunteers for the program. The grant was funded by Operation Roundup, where CoServ Electric and Gas customers round up their bill to the nearest dollar.
The campaign will include print and digital advertisements, booth fees, flyers, branded giveaways and production of a recruitment video and brochure.
"Whatever we need to reach out to people and show them what an important role they can be in," Debbie said.
It takes someone special to become an advocate for children in the foster system. They focus on giving that child or set of siblings individualized advocacy and attention. Many have been pulled from homes where they were abused or neglected. The sole objective of CASA volunteers is to represent the best interests of the child. There are 241 trained court advocate volunteers serving an average of 42 hours per year per child.
The advocates attend meetings with professionals that involve the physical, medical, emotional and educational needs of the child.
In 2019, there were about 200 children that CASA couldn’t help because they didn’t have enough volunteers. Those children are assigned an attorney who is paid by the county.
“We’re really proud of fact that when we’re able to serve on a case we save the county money by not billing them for the time our volunteers put into the case,” Debbie said. “Our volunteers take on a very important role in that child’s life.”
CCF has awarded nearly $50,000 to CASA of Denton County since 2003. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with CASA, visit casadenton.org/volunteer.
The CoServ Charitable Foundation (CCF) focuses on providing basic human needs, promoting community vitality and supporting education. Since CCF was established in 2004, more than $12 million has been distributed to worthy causes across North Texas. Funding for most of the grants comes from CoServ customers through Operation Roundup® – a program where customers “round up” their monthly utility bill to the nearest dollar. For more information about CCF, please visit CoServ.com/CCF.