Volunteers as Advocates – Central Texas Stories

At the age of nine, Lillian entered her first foster home along with her older sister. Over the next five years, she had nine different placements and rarely lived with her sister. Her parents’ issues with substance abuse and mental health precluded a safe return home, leaving her among the 55 percent of foster children who never return home.

Jeanne Harris has been Lillian’s court appointed special advocate, or CASA volunteer for nine years. CASA is a national model that recruits and trains volunteers to act as advocates for abused and neglected children as they navigate through the often overburdened court system. As Lillian’s CASA advocate, Jeanne monitors her educational, therapeutic, legal, and medical processes, while at the same time earning trust and offering insight as a caring adult. Once shy, Lillian has now discovered the power of her own voice. She’s a senior in high school and will be heading to Tarleton State University to pursue her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Whereas CPS caseworkers carry an average of 33 cases, CASA volunteers have just one child or one sibling group, and they are often the most consistent and stable presence in the child’s life. A long-time grantee, CASA of Travis County serves about 80 percent of the total number of kids in the county court system, and is working to extend services to the remainder of children in the county. Listen to what Lillian, Jeanne, and the CASA team have to say about how the program is changing lives every day.