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CASA Cares: What it means to be a CASA advocate

Texas Today has started a new segment called CASA Cares. Each week will focus on a different way CASA of Bell and Coryell County care for children in foster care.

CENTRAL, Texas — CASA of Coryell and Bell County makes sure every child that has been taken out of their home has someone to care for them.

The 85 advocates, known as Court Appointed Special Advocates, currently volunteer 10 to 20 hours of their free time to the well-being of the child they're assigned to.

CASA has a goal of bringing on more volunteers because they believe every child taken away from their home deserves an advocate.

Beverly Ledbetter has been an advocate at CASA for the last four years and she said it's the best decision she's ever made.

"I had a goal to stay consistent when I began," she said.

For four years, Ledbetter has been with the same children off and on. She's been there for them through thick and thin.

"I'm always going to be the one walking through the door, playing with and talking with them," she added.

Ledbetter said she devotes so much time and gives what she does to the children she watches over because of her first experience with a CASA in her own home.

Four years before she became a CASA, Ledbetter fostered children. The first child CPS brought to her home came with a CASA.

She saw how caring and needed this person was in her foster child's life.

"I told myself then, whenever I'm done with foster care I'm going to be a CASA volunteer," she added.

When her time fostering ended in 2019, Ledbetter adopted her 13th foster child and signed up to train to be a CASA right away.

She said it's been really rewarding being there for the children from beginning to end.

That's the goal of every CASA; to create consistency in the life of a child who is not in their own home anymore.

CASA(s) like Kim Chambers and Cari Furst devote all their free time to the children they watch over, sometimes to just pick up a call or to give a child a shoulder to lean on.

"I feel that every child should feel protected, especially when they're in a crisis such as a CPS active case," Furst said.

They've seen their lives transform from this process. Becoming an advocate means having the chance to make a difference in someone's life.

If an advocate had to give any good reason to join their initiative today, it would be this:

"As long as you're open honest and consistent, you're not doing anything wrong," Chambers said.

"The kids are worth it, and they deserve to have someone there to be showing up for them," Ledbetter added.

If you would like to become a CASA advocate, click here.

Thirty hours of training is required to be an advocate. There are scheduled classes that teach you what to look out for when you go into a foster home as an advocate so that you can report back to the judge properly.

There are also in-person or Zoom court observations that are required.

Once an advocate in training is sworn in, they have an advocate supervisor that joins them for the first couple of visits, which helps an advocate ease into the process.

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