AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As life slowly gets back to pre-pandemic times, Amarillo Area CASA starts to see more children come into the system, but while the number of cases is changing, the lack of volunteers remains the same.
“There are 36 children within our program that need a CASA,” Jarah Mendoza, chief program officer at Amarillo Area Casa. “However, in Potter and Randall counties there are over 600 hundred children that need a CASA.”
In 2020 there were 1,197 confirmed cases of abuse/neglect in the seven counties they serve, with an additional 3,072 claims that were not able to be confirmed.
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, was established in Amarillo in 1994.
The program, pairs volunteers to a case who get to know the child’s parent, relatives, teachers and medical professionals.
Then the advocate uses the information they gather to help judges understand what the child needs and, if necessary, help the child find a permanent home.
“I have some older kids in my life that I wish would’ve had someone else come alongside them,” said Jami Hanes, volunteer at Amarillo Area CASA.
Hanes and her husband have been volunteers for around a year now.
They currently advocate for five children and say it gives them hope to know they are able to bring light to a child’s life.
“There’s a lot of kids out there that need help,” said Dolton Hanes, Jami’s husband and volunteer. “That need adult that’s stable, especially male. We need male volunteers to help with males, cause there’s a lot of young kids that need father figures to look up to.”
The couple dedicates around an hour a week of their time to being advocates, sometimes more when they have to travel out of town.
Although they both agree it can be challenging at times, knowing they are making a difference makes it all worth it.
“I think we all have the capacity or the desire in us to love and to be loved,” said Jami Hanes. “So, there’s a lot of opportunities out there to do something more.”
With training back in person, CASA is hoping more people will be encouraged to volunteer their time.
If you’re 21 or older, have the time and can pass a background check, you qualify to be a casa advocate.
Aside from Amarillo, volunteers are also needed in Armstrong, Briscoe, Carson, Hutchinson, Potter, Randall and Swisher.
If you would like to learn more about the volunteer program, call (806) 373-2272.