Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 10 to celebrate the official naming of its office complex, McNatt Center, on N. Bell Avenue.
CASA was able to purchase the facility thanks to a $200,000 donation from longtime Denton residents, the McNatt brothers, which allowed the organization to expand its staff to better serve local children.
“To say that the board of directors of CASA is extremely grateful for the generosity of the McNatt families is an understatement,” CASA board president Paula Wagner said in an article by the Lake Cities Sun. “Their gift enables us to grow toward our goal of becoming the voice for all children in foster care in Denton County.”
CASA is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization serving the greater Denton County area. CASA volunteers are court-appointed advocates for children who have been removed from homes by Child Protective Services in cases of suspected abuse or neglect. Advocates aim to provide stability and support to vulnerable youth in the face of an overburdened child welfare system that may not have the resources to meet children’s needs adequately.
According to CASA’s website, “The mission of CASA of Denton County, Inc. is to provide trained community volunteers, to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children, and to promote community awareness about child abuse issues.”
What sets CASA volunteers apart from CPS caseworkers is the individual attention they can offer each child. Volunteers are “screened and highly trained,” according to CASA’s website, and appointed to only one family at a time in an effort to provide maximum, individualized care.
Advocates remain with children for 12 to 18 months and provide a recommendation to the courts based on their determination of what will serve the child’s best interests.
CASA Denton, like its national counterparts, is modeled after the CASA concept created in 1971 by Seattle Judge David Soukup. Soukup, concerned that he was not able to make well-informed rulings due to a lack of sufficient information, created a group of community volunteers to intervene and investigate on behalf of abused and neglected children.
The program initially began serving Denton in February 1992 but remained limited in resources through 1996, and volunteers were only able to assist up to 11 children annually. Since then, CASA of Denton County has continued to grow, now consisting of a full-time staff and able to serve up to 600 children every year.
More information on CASA of Denton County and how the public can support the organization’s mission can be found here.