Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Grayson County swore in four new volunteers this week and one helping heart in the 15th District Court.

The new additions mean CASA now has 68 volunteers serving the children of Grayson County.

“While we are encouraged by the growing number of advocates, unfortunately, the need for CASA has once again been confirmed with the release of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service’s 2016 Data Book,” the agency said in a written statement.

The book is released on a yearly basis to give local communities a look into the demographics of local children being victimized. Grayson County has a child population of 29,559. This represents 23 percent of the total population of 128,394. The department opened 1,420 investigations of child abuse in 2016. Of those investigations, 235 removals were completed with 406 children being placed into care. To put this into perspective, eight out of every 1,000 children were removed from their family due to confirmed abuse or neglect. As of Aug. 31, 2016, 287 children removed were still the legal responsibility of the state.

CASAs are community volunteers dedicated to helping ensure all children placed in protective care find safe, permanent homes where they can thrive. Some children reunite with parents or relatives, while others make a connection with adoptive parents. CASAs visit with their children monthly and have consistent contact with Child Protective Services, foster parents and other professionals involved in the court case. CASAs are their child’s voice in the courtroom by testifying to their observations and contacts made throughout the case. Each CASA is allowed one Helping Heart to provide support and encouragement. A Helping Heart is a spouse or friend who attends confidentiality training but does not provide the same services as a CASA volunteer.

CASA volunteers must be 21 or older, undergo a background check, must give at least a one year commitment, and take part in a personal interview. Volunteer advocates are patient, open-minded people who have good communication skills, a history of following through on commitments and a willingness to accept guidance. Above all, they care about children.

CASA’s next training class is scheduled to begin Nov. 27 and will last two weeks. The dates for the training are Nov. 27, Nov. 28 and Nov. 30 and Dec. 4 and Dec. 6.

For more information about how to become a CASA volunteer, or to join this training class, please call 903-813-5400.