By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

CASA Takes Shape in Valley County

 


In October, the Courier reached out to Mark Douglass, the executive director of CASA of Hill County, Inc., to talk about court appointed special advocates for child abuse and neglect victims in the county. Douglass painted a bleak picture of the number of abused or neglected youth awaiting advocacy in Valley County with some 35 cases lacking appointees at the time. With some 45 other cases already distributed amongst the four volunteers. Since then, CASA in Valley County is set to graduate two new volunteers in mid-December bringing the county’s total to six, and the program even closer to taking shape.

Douglass was excited to have the volunteers coming on to assist, but said the program in Valley County is still in need of assistance. “If we could get to 12 to 15 regular volunteers that would be enough to easily cover our priority cases, and even branch out to more routine cases,” said Douglass adding, “This really is a one person game. One person can make a huge impact for children in Valley County.”


In Douglass’ view, many times he feels people are hesitant to get involved because they feel their contributions are too small to be significant. He stressed that in the case of being a CASA that isn’t true, and he feels confident the program will get to the point where it can most effectively serve the youth in the county, “a five to six person class here in January would put us right at the mark,” emphasized Douglass.

Douglass also talked in depth about the growing professional relationships the organization has garnered in the county. “The groundwork is being laid in Valley County, we have lots of buy-in from local professionals such as the attorneys, judges, counselors and therapists that are setting the stage for moving forward.” All that remains is for a volunteer pool to exist that can keep up with the case loads.

When asked about case loads Douglass was blunt, “we are swamped,” he said. He did, however, have more good news in the form of observations, “One good thing is we haven’t seen a real cascade right after the school year started as I expected we would.” He pointed to that as a good thing to hold onto in his line of work.

If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, a class will begin in mid-January, and you can contact Mark Douglass at 406-265-6743 or 406-399-4519 or via email at casa@hrdc4.org.

 

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