For many, June is the start of summer vacations and kids heading off to camp.
What many don’t know is that June is National Reunification Month, and CASA for Kids of South Central Texas is setting out to break down common misconceptions around families involved in the foster care system and raise awareness about how the community can better support these families.
Many people believe that once children are removed from abusive or neglectful situations and placed in foster care, no further help for them is needed. The reality, though, is that foster care is not meant to be a permanent solution, and living away from their home and community takes its toll on these children.
“Most kids in foster care experience a sense of grief and loss after being removed from their home, regardless of what their situation was like,” said Deanna Warmke, executive director of CASA for Kids of South Central Texas. “Their home, though it may have been unsafe for them, is still their home – and the only one they’ve ever known.”
The first priority of Child Protective Services (CPS) and CASA for Kids of South Central Texas is to help reunite children with their families. CASA volunteers strive to make sure families have the support and resources they need to ensure their children can safely come back home. CASA for Kids of South Central Texas recruits and trains Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA volunteers, to speak up for these children while they are in foster care.
These volunteers get to know the children they serve and the others involved in their lives, advocating for family reunification as the first priority whenever it is safe and possible.
“We know that most parents love their children and want what’s best for them, and the parents of the children we serve are no exception,” said Warmke. “We want to help parents do everything they can to ensure their children can live with them safely because going back home is the best possible outcome for these kids.”
Many times, parents who have had their children removed by CPS struggle to access the resources, support and education they need to be able to address the issues that resulted in the removal, Warmke explained. CASA volunteers can help bridge this gap by making sure the children and parents have a support system of family and other caring adults who are able to help in whatever ways needed, and stay involved long after CASA and CPS involvement ends.
“If parents and children have a good support system, it’s much more likely that a plan for reunification will be successful and sustainable,” Warmke said. “That’s what we want for the children we serve – for them to be able to grow up safe and happy, surrounded by people who love them.”
Unfortunately, reunification is not always a safe option. Whatever happens, CASA volunteers stay with their assigned child throughout the duration of their case, ensuring the child is set up for success after their time in foster care.
“Whether the child is reunified, adopted or ages out of care, the CASA volunteer is a steadfast, reliable advocate for them and makes sure they have a chance at a bright future,” Warmke said.
By becoming a CASA volunteer, you can help ensure a child in foster care is connected and loved and has a safe and happy future. Learn more at www.wespeak4kids.org.