Volunteers plea for funding to help hundreds of Texas children in foster care

FILE - Child's play room. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A group of volunteers with CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, will be at the State Capitol on Thursday meeting with legislators to discuss ways to improve the Child Protective System.

CASA volunteers help when a child enters the foster care system. Funding comes in several different ways, including private donations and money from the state.

The group is requesting more funding statewide for volunteers. In Williamson County, the group says they had 114 volunteers last year who helped 213 children. Another 220 children in foster care did not receive help from a special advocate due to the lack of funding.

In Travis County, CASA had 742 volunteers who served more than 1,800 children. However, 700 still need a volunteer.

Lawmakers are currently fast-tracking a bill designed to overhaul CPS. They say it is time to act fast, as more than 100 children died in the state’s care last year.

Senator Charles Schwertner, R-Texas, wrote the bill, SB 11, which falls under emergency legislation, allowing the legislature to vote on it in the first 60 days of the Legislative Session. If passed, the bill would boost the number of independent agencies working with the system, strengthen investigations and increase accountability.

“The most important things on the bill are intervention in the cases of abuse, because I experienced so much abuse in the system and out of the system,” said Natalia Hazelwood, who was adopted at 10 years old.

But, she still experienced abuse within her adopted family, that included being kept in a room in the family’s garage and only fed sandwiches. Hazelwood said attention from social workers was gone.

“CPS was out of the picture and I wasn’t checked-up on anymore,” said Hazelwood.