CASA representatives provide help for Orange County children in need
Published 12:20 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Daphne Richard spends at least 15 hours a month on each assigned case. She is responsible for performing observations, investigations and documentation in advance of court appearances as an advocate for children in foster care.
After 30 years of service to West Orange-Cove CISD helping families and the community, the retired wife, mother and grandmother has chosen to dedicate a few hours a month volunteering as a CASA representative.
“I believe in helping others, most of all contributing to the community,” Richard said. “It brings joy to children to know that someone cares and loves them enough to make them feel safe. My compassion for children is why I volunteer; volunteering nourishes my heart.”
Richard is one of more than 40 community volunteers who serve as advocates for local children served by the foster care system.
These advocates receive training from and are supervised by CASA of the Sabine Neches Region in Orange. According to, Kristie Veillon, director of Advocate Services, Orange County CASAs hail from diverse demographics,
“Because children come from our community, from different backgrounds, socioeconomic [classes], different races, different religions, we recruit across the spectrum,” Veillon said. “We want to match our children to the community they come from as much as we can.”
Although CASAs aren’t required to hail from specific professions, they are officers of the court who serve children by establishing relationships with them to determine their best interests.
Veillon detailed some of the eligibility guidelines an advocate must meet to ensure each child has a safe advocate.
“You must be 21 years of age, you must pass CPS and criminal background checks and be willing to commit at least 15 hours a month to your case and be willing to complete 34 hours of training,” Veillon said. “You’ll be sworn in by a judge and then we ask for at least a one-year commitment to the case.”
CASA of the Sabine Neches Region commemorated National Foster Care Month by inviting community members to consider becoming an advocate.
“We are always in need of volunteers,” Veillon said. “We would love for the day when we didn’t need volunteers, but children are unfortunately continuously coming into care and we cannot provide a CASA if we don’t have a volunteer available. We are constantly recruiting and looking for volunteers. I’m never not in need with our program.”
Last year in Orange County, 200 children were served by the child welfare system, 47 were removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, and an estimated 25 percent of children in the system were served by a CASA advocate.
Because most children don’t appear in court, advocates provide an invaluable service. Children with a patient, open minded, well-informed advocate spend less time in the system than those without one.
CASA volunteers may also serve as members of the CASA Legislative Advocay Team, who are responsible for cultivating relationships with state-level public policy professionals and echo the legislative agenda as articulated by TEXAS CASA.
Their public policy agenda supports policies that keep children with families when it is safe to do so.
CASAs are not involved in removals, and they are not decision makers. Advocates speak on behalf of children and, according to Veillon, advocates and volunteers have helped restore families,
“If there’s a CASA there’s a higher chance of family reunification, and that’s our ultimate goal at the beginning-its family reunification,” she said. “The best stories are the ones where at the end of the case the kids go home to mom and dad, or one or the other.”
Prospective CASA advocates can contact CASA of the Sabine Neches Region at 409-886-2272.
— Written by Shari Hardin