Cooke County CASA turning kids away; needing volunteers

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GAINESVILLE, TX -- Every day police make arrests that send suspects to jail, but they often have unintended consequences: leaving children without their parents, or a place to call home. CASA of north Texas says the number of kids affected by these crimes is growing. and that's making it impossible for CASA to help all of them.

For the first time in 13 years, Cooke County's Court Appointed Special Advocates -- or CASA -- is turning away children because the workload has become too heavy.

Director Vicki Robertson says each time a child is turned away, they're sent into a bogged down court system that can't focus on the child's needs. She says that just isn't fair.

In 2012, Cooke County CASA helped advocate for 112 kids in the county who were abused or neglected. Just half way into 2013, they're already helping 138 kids.

"We're just really bursting at the seams so to speak, in our ability to provide advocates," Robertson said.

Robertson says turning away kids is something they've feared.

"It literally comes down to making the choice of do you turn away the twins that were found in the middle of a busy thoroughfare at 3 o'clock in the morning while their parents partied unaware. Or, the little boy who was you know, beaten, you know within an inch of his life?" she said.

"So many kids nowadays are without a parent or sometimes even two parents because of the surge of drugs and alcohol in our society and other factors," Keith "KO" Orsburn.

Assistant County Attorney Keith "KO" Orsburn has been involved in several CPS cases. He says when children are turned away, the court system looks out for their best interest but the children are not given one-on-one attention.

For that reason, he says CASA volunteers are a necessity.

"What a volunteer has to remember is all the good that will come out of them stepping up to help and assist that child," he said.

To be a CASA volunteer, you must be at least 21 years old and be able to dedicate 10 to 15 hours each month.

"They investigate the case. They check into everything. They talk to teachers and grandparents, doctors and therapists, you name it," Roberston said.

Then, advocates present what they know about the child to the judge, to ensure they're placed back into a safe home, or adopted.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer in Cooke County, or would like to see if your local CASA organization needs help, visit the link below.

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