National Volunteer Week Volunteers change children’s lives

Published 12:00 pm Monday, April 8, 2019

By Codie Vasquez, Executive Director, CASA of the Sabine Neches Region

There is an epidemic that is affecting children and families in our community and across the state, and it’s only growing: the epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Last year in Texas:

  • 66,382 children were confirmed to be victims of abuse or neglect, a 4.3-percent increase from 2017.
  • 20,685 children were removed from their home and placed in substitute care, a 4.1-percent increase from the previous year.
  • A total of 52,397 children were in the custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) during the year, another increase from last year’s total of 50,293.

715 of these children were in the foster care system right here in Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Tyler and Sabine counties..

Even one child is too many, and it is our role as a community to end this cycle. We must all do more to raise awareness and protect the children right here in our own backyard.

Already, there are people in our community stepping up. I am proud to say that there are 23 dedicated members of our community who are doing their part to take a stand against child abuse and neglect. These individuals, called Court Appointed Special Advocates or CASA volunteers, are part of a growing movement spreading across 217 of Texas’ 254 counties.

CASA volunteers are everyday people who do extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for children in the foster care system. They are specially trained and then appointed by judges to speak up for one child or sibling group, looking after their physical, emotional and psychological well-being and ensuring their voices are heard while they are in the system. By standing up for them and their best interests, these volunteers give these children a better chance at a safe, happy future and help break the cycle for the next generation.

Though statewide numbers indicate that the foster care system is growing, our movement is stepping up to serve more of these children than ever before. Last year, through the collective power of the CASA community, more than 30,000 children were served by a landmark 10,856 CASA volunteers statewide.

This week, April 7-13, is National Volunteer Week, and I ask you to help me thank the CASA volunteers in our community and across the state for their service to our most vulnerable children. Today, more children than ever before have a dedicated advocate by their side, stepping up to give them a better chance at a brighter future.

In addition to celebrating the CASA volunteers – and all the other volunteers in your community who offer their time and talents to make our society safer, healthier and stronger – I ask that you consider whether joining our movement is right for you.

There is no special background or education required to become a CASA volunteer, just the desire to help children who have been abused and neglected. These children need someone who will stay by their side and speak up for their best interests during this difficult time in their life. By acting as the eyes and ears for the courts and providing key insight on the unique needs of the children they serve, CASA volunteers are actively a part of the solution.

We need people like you to step up, because too many children are stuck in the system without a CASA volunteer advocating for their best interest. In Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Tyler and Sabine counties, approximately 390 children still need a CASA volunteer to speak up for them.

Every child deserves a chance at a bright future, and you could be that chance. So will you take a stand and join us?


Codie Vasquez is executive director of CASA of the Sabine Neches Region, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Orange, Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Tyler and Sabine counties.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you see abuse, report it to 1 (800) 252-5400 or go If a child’s life is in danger, call 911. If you want to leave a legacy of positive change, become a CASA volunteer. Call (409) 886-2272 or visit for more information.