AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Area CASA (AACASA) works to advocate for children of abuse and neglect through the efforts of trained volunteers, appointed by the court to ensure them a safe, nurturing, and permanent environment.

Jarah Mendoza, the chief program officers at AACASA, called these volunteers their “boots on the ground.”

“They’re important because they build lifelong relationships with these children, and they’re the one stable person in the lives of these child children while they’re in foster care,” said Mendoza.

AACASA serves seven counties in the Texas Panhandle.

“In those seven counties last year, there were over 1,000 children in foster care,” said Mendoza. She said their program was only able to serve 300 of them. 

“There are still 700 children that need a casa. Now within our program, we have about 30 children that are still needing a volunteer advocate, and so those other 700 we haven’t been assigned to,” added Mendoza.

She said that is because they do not have enough volunteers.

Volunteering as AACASA requires a person to be 21 and older, pass a background and CPS check, and take a 30-hour training.

“It’s very flexible. We do a day training and night training, and part of that is still virtual. So you can do that at home on your own time. And then you’re sworn in by one of our local judges, and then you’re paired with a supervisor,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza said becoming a volunteer not only makes a difference in your life, but also a child’s.

“I think as the volunteers get going, and they realize the impact that they are making on a child’s life and a future community member in your own community, like you’re building your community and your future by working with these children and bringing them up to be you know, stable citizens and citizens that work here and have their own children here. So I think I think once you get going, you’re just gonna be like, Wow, the difference that I’m making with these kids is amazing,” said Mendoza.

Medoza said volunteering takes five to ten hours a month.

“Court hearings are only every four to six months. So you’re not going to be going to court a whole lot. Your main duty as a volunteer is going to be making phone calls going to see that child, at least monthly. Depending on where they’re placed, we have children placed all over the state of Texas, not just here in Amarillo, even if they’re from here, sometimes they get placed further away,” said Mendoza. “If you’re building a relationship with a child, we hope that it’s more than that.”

For more information on volunteering as a CASA, or to donate to help support the organization, click here.