With the Houston Children’s Festival just around the corner I took this opportunity to learn more about Child Advocates, Inc, the area non-profit organization that helps families. Find out what I learned during my interview with them.
What is Child Advocates, Inc.?
Child Advocates, Inc. is a private nonprofit organization that is Harris County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. We mobilize Court Appointed Advocate volunteers to break the cycle of child abuse. We speak up for abused children who are lost in the system and guide them into safe environments where they can thrive. Child Advocates volunteers serve children who have been placed in foster care because they can no longer live safely at home. Our volunteers are appointed by juvenile and family court judges to serve as a child’s “guardian ad litem,” which gives them the power to make a profound difference in that child’s life.
What does a court appointed advocate do?
Once appointed by a judge, our court appointed advocate volunteers begin a process of information gathering with the goal of guiding abused children out of the foster care system. They identify the child’s needs and ensure they receive critical rehabilitative services. They act as a communications link between the child, the courts and everyone involved in the case, including parents, caregivers, relatives, caseworkers, attorneys and therapists. Volunteers gather all the pertinent information about their child’s case and make recommendations to the judge based on that information.
Volunteers provide a continuum of services customized to meet each child’s needs. They locate vital therapeutic and rehabilitative services for the children we serve to help them deal with the trauma of abuse. They also link the children with the wide variety of esteem-boosting activities that Child Advocates provides, such as birthday parties, trips to watch sporting events or visits to the zoo. As volunteers identify specific unmet needs, they work with our Special Needs Program to find a solution, such as buying bunk beds for children who have to sleep on the floor.
Volunteers work in tandem with a staff Advocacy Coordinator who guides their casework and supports the efforts of the volunteer. Our staff members attend family visits with their volunteers, teach them how to most effectively testify in court and offer advice on working with children and families from diverse backgrounds.
How can families get assistance from Child Advocates? What is the method used?
Court appointed advocate volunteers are assigned to open CPS cases by the judge. Anyone with a current open case can request an advocate through the judge. We also have a form online (www.childadvocaets.org) that will allow us to make the request to the judge, in order to fill this out, you must have a current open case in Harris County. If the case is open in another area, I suggest the families look to www.casaforchildren.com and search for their county’s program.
How can someone volunteer with Child Advocates?
Whether you’re looking to volunteer directly with the abused and neglected children we serve, help raise money to support our program or simply occupy some time on a weekday afternoon – we have a volunteer opportunity that’s just your size:
· Court Appointed Advocate Volunteer – the heart of Child Advocates’ mission and a shining example of ordinary individuals making an extraordinary impact in the lives of abused children.
· Special Events Volunteer – opportunities to participate in shorter-term / done-in-a-day volunteer roles.
· Friends of Child Advocates Volunteer – a membership-based group of volunteers who serve as a fundraising arm and volunteer base for our many special events.
· Young Professionals for Children Volunteer – a membership-based social/networking group who provide four annual events for the children we serve.
How important are the efforts of volunteers?
Tremendously important! Our volunteers are the foundation of our mission. Without them we could not serve our children in the capacity that we do. Every volunteer makes an impact on a child’s life. Any given day, there are over 5000 children in CPS custody (in Harris County alone) so you see why their role is needed and why we need more. Our volunteers are a valuable asset.
I see that Child Advocates has a number of fundraising and donation efforts across the region throughout the year. How important is the Houston Children’s Festival to Child Advocates?
Our fundraising efforts are focused on the Houston area since the children we serve are in Harris County. Our donors and sponsors are amazing and help us provide support that our volunteers need to give a child a voice. The Houston Children’s Festival plays a critical role in not only the fundraising efforts but the brand awareness of our organization and its mission.
How successful has the Houston Children’s Festival been in the past in terms of donations to Child Advocates?
The Houston Children’s Festival is always a successful event for us and we love this partnership. This year alone, we are expecting to serve several children from the generosity of the Houston Children’s Festival.
How can we help Child Advocates?
It is simple – give. Either through your time or through your donations.
We have several orientations throughout the year for those who are interested in becoming a court appointed advocate. And, if you have a group or organization that is looking for more information, we are happy to schedule a speaker to come out. It is amazing to see the impact one person can play in the life of a child and encourage anyone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer to attend an orientation.
A lot of people are not ready to the step of being a court appointed advocate – and, that is okay. There are several other ways to get involved listed on our website.
We also develop really great programs and sponsorship with several corporations. If they are looking for a way to help we can find the appropriate channel for them.
The Houston Children’s Festival is not only an amazing opportunity to help a local organization and a number of Houston area families, but the whole family can enjoy a day of play and maybe even meet Raini Rodriquez of Disney’s “Austin and Ally” or James Maslow of “Big Time Rush.”
In related news. . .
Enjoy my interview with James Maslow about the future, BTR and his tour with “1D” (British boy band One Direction.