By Lucia Almanza
La Prensa San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO — As families head back to school, not every child is as fortunate to depend on a strong family foundation to help them make that smooth transition. As a matter of fact, there are numerous children in San Antonio without a family who are in great need of support and most importantly a voice.
The dedicated and hard-working Child Advocates of San Antonio (CASA) have become that much needed voice for children in our community. They are committed to saving these children from being neglected or abused and are dedicated to help make a difference in their lives.
“I am fully committed to this organization because I love the training and I love the outcome. The outcome we are able to give children who are very vulnerable a different way to view the future,” said Jan Brown, an all-star advocate who has been with CASA for six years.
On Monday, Aug. 22, CASA celebrated as they welcomed their newest class of 40 court-appointed special advocates joining CASA with a special swear-in ceremony at their building, located at 406 San Pedro, with the Honorable Judge Peter Sakai, who swore in the newest advocates.
“I’m very excited and honored to do everything that I can to help the community and especially the children. It will be one year where children will have an adult in their lives. If I can do it, anybody can do it. It’s so rewarding on so many levels that I believe everybody should become involved,” said Ana Arellano, a newly appointed CASA advocate.
The children who are represented in court are currently in Child Protective Services (CPS) custody, and results in being a tough time for them to be without their parents. The child advocate becomes the voice in the court for the abused children and works to represent their best interest.
“We now have 440 community volunteers who are going to be helping children and it’s really wonderful. It’s growing and it’s great because we only serve a third of children in the system. Our goal is to have one advocate for every child who needs one by 2020. All you really need to bring is a good heart, good eyes to watch and observe and good ears to listen,” said Brown.
During the ceremony, CASA also presented Senator Carlos Uresti (D-19) with the “Big Voices for Little Texans Award” to recognize his strong advocacy on behalf of children during his time in the Texas House of Rep- resentatives and the Senate.
Uresti has authored, co-authored and sponsored numerous bills during his decade of public service including bills on landmark reforms of the CPS and the creation of a statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force to create new policies and strategies to combat child abuse and neglect.
“You will be a hero in these children’s lives. You will make a difference,” said Senator Carlos Uresti, addressing the newest class of CASA court-appointed special advocates.
Wal-Mart was also part of the ceremony and presented a $25,000 check to CASA as the newest recipient of a grant awarded through Wal-Mart Foundation’s State Giving Program.
Wal-Mart’s program awards grants to organizations with programs serving a state or region and align with Wal-Mart’s mission to create opportunities so people can live better.
“We are proud to award this grant to Child Advocates San Antonio to help ensure a brighter future to displaced children in San Antonio and Bexar County. It is Wal-Mart’s commitment to promote well-being in the communities where we live and help improve the quality of life for future generations,” said Kellie Duhr, Director of Wal-Mart Public Affairs and Government Relations.