In 1976, in Waco, Texas, a grassroots effort sprang to life with a group of professionals who witnessed how children in the foster care system were disadvantaged by adult rules, guidelines, red tape, and limited resources. These doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, and social workers met to discuss a solution to the growing number of child abuse cases and children who kept falling through the cracks of the system intended to protect them. As a result, the Waco Rape Crisis Center was founded and ultimately expanded to an umbrella agency, the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, with four programs including CASA of McLennan County. A handful of community members completed the first advocate training class in 1994.
In 2012, CASA became an independent 501(c)3 charitable organization, operating independently of the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. Today, we are one of over 70 programs affiliated through the Texas CASA network, with approximately 80 volunteers advocating for almost 200 children annually. However, with nearly 700 children in the McLennan County foster care system, we need many more volunteers and supporters in order to reach our program vision of having an advocate for every child who needs one.
Child victims in McLennan County range in age from newborn to 18 years and come from all socio-economic statuses, genders, and ethnic backgrounds. Any party, including Child Protective Services, attorneys, parents, and CASA itself may request that CASA be appointed by the Child Protection Court Judge to a case. CASA works collaboratively, but independently, with other parties to the case and remains until the case is resolved, typically 12-18 months.
CASA volunteers help maintain a sense of urgency to all children’s cases and recognize that permanency (both legal and relational) is essential to well-being. Our program has made a significant impact over the past 26 years, and we are working to double our efforts over the next five years so that even more children can ultimately thrive in safe, permanent homes. Join us today!