Hundreds of CASA Volunteers Bring Pacifiers & Toys to Capitol to Remember 227 Texas Children Who Died from Abuse and Neglect

CASA Advocates Urge the Legislature to Fund Child Protective Services, CASA to Keep Texas Children Safe


Austin — Hundreds of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers from across the state visited the Texas Capitol Tuesday to strongly oppose proposed budget cuts for Child Protective Services and to make the safety of abused and neglected children in CPS custody a priority.

“We are here speaking up for abused children who have no voice,” said Joe Gagen, CEO of Texas CASA. “Too many children are abused and neglected and hundreds of children are dying each year. Too many children are caught up in a foster care system that is overloaded with needs. We want the Texas Legislature to make these children the top priority in Texas as they work to balance the budget,” said Gagen.

Every child in foster care needs a caseworker, services and a CASA volunteer, Gagen said. Both Child Protective Services and CASA programs need financial resources to deal with projections that 8,300 more children will be entering the child welfare systems by 2014, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. DFPS reports that 42,890 children were in care in 2010 and projects that 51,215 will be in care by 2014.

Proposed budget cuts will slash caseworkers and investigators who are critical to keeping children safe. House Bill 1, the state’s appropriations bill, includes an 18 percent cut ($467 million) that will directly affect efforts to redesign foster care so that it better serves abused and neglected children.

Volunteers from every corner of the state traveled to the Capitol to advocate for the thousands of children in the foster care system. Their goal was to remind legislators about the importance of adequately funding CPS and protecting the abused and neglected children in the Texas child welfare system through high-impact programs like CASA. Studies have shown that children who have CASA volunteers spend a shorter time in foster care and are less likely to return to the system, which is good for children and good for taxpayers.

In a somber procession, CASA volunteers brought pacifiers, toys and other items to represent the 227 Texas children who died of abuse and neglect in Texas in 2010, according to DFPS.

“With an increase in children coming into care and recommended cuts, more children are going to fall through the cracks and not find safe, permanent homes”, said Gagen.

Cheryl Reed, a CASA volunteer from Corpus Christi, recalled how she helped a little boy she calls “CASA John.” He was one of five homeless, abused and neglected children born to a drug addict. John endured 15 moves to different homes and facilities in five towns while in foster care before he was finally adopted, neglected and moved 15 different times in foster care before he and his siblings were finally adopted. Reed, the CASA volunteer, was the only constant in his life during those years of turmoil and distress.

“CASA John is just one example of the thousands of children who are abused and neglected in our state and who need our help,” said Reed. “As John was shuffled through the system, I advocated for him along the way ultimately finding him a ‘forever home.’ He now has unconditional love and support. CPS caseworkers are already over burdened and further cuts to the agency will make children less safe,” said Reed.

Ashley Gallardo, a former foster care child, said it was tough growing up in the foster care system where she was separated from her siblings. She feels blessed she was lucky enough to have a CASA volunteer who helped her through the years. Her CASA volunteer encouraged her to go to college and pursue a career. She now works to help other former foster youth.

Texas CASA is a statewide association of 69 local CASA programs that recruit, train and supervise community volunteers who are court appointed to represent the best interests of children in CPS custody due to evidence of abuse or neglect. Each CASA volunteer is appointed to advocate for one child or set of siblings so he or she can get to know the child or sibling group and what the children’s current and future needs are.

The CASA volunteer visits the child regularly, monitors the child’s progress and the progress of the CPS case in general. The CASA volunteer interviews everyone involved in the child’s life and reviews all relevant medical, educational and legal records, and reports his or her findings to the court and other parties. CASA volunteers make recommendations to judges about the children’s best interests now and in the future.

In FY 2010, 6,619 CASA volunteers advocated for 20,861 children in CPS custody. They helped guide the children through the overburdened foster care system to safe, permanent homes. But, this number represents less than HALF of the children in CPS custody last year.

When home is no longer safe for a child, and the child must enter the foster care system, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer called a CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocate®. The volunteer’s focus is on that child, giving hope and help in guiding the child to a safe, permanent home. Make a difference. Consider becoming a CASA volunteer. Visit

• Every 8 minutes a child in Texas was a victim of abuse or neglect
• A child died from abuse and neglect every 38 hours in Texas
• 1 out of every 100 children was a victim of abuse or neglect in Texas
• Nearly 40,000 or 59% of those children were infants to 6 years old
• Nearly 43,000 children were in the case and custody of DFPS
• Nearly 22,000 children, more than half the children in care, did NOT have CASA advocates as they made their journey through foster care

Source: DFPS Data Book for FY 2010 (Sept. 1, 2009-Aug. 31, 2010)
For more information about your county, go to the Data Book: