By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
With volunteer numbers dropping in the last five years, Family and Children Support Services is holding an art show and dinner to raise money to recruit and support people to speak for children in foster care.
The local Court Appointed Special Advocates organization covers both Roosevelt and Curry counties.
CASA has 27 volunteers, but 165 children are going through the court system in the area, said volunteer coordinator Sherri Munro. For reasons she doesn’t know, the volunteer number has dropped from just over 40 people five years ago.
The organization is funded for 40 volunteers and needs that many to continue with funding at that level, Munro said.
“It gives the child a sense of power and a voice concerning what happens to them and their future,” she said.
Most proceeds from the Children’s Art Gallery event will go to recruit, train, retain and recognize CASA volunteers, Munro said. The rest is earmarked for other Family and Children Support Services work.
The event is set to include art by local children, in and out of the foster care system, and adults. Live music by two bands, a Mexican dinner and an art auction round out the evening.
The artwork encourages young artists to continue their work and shows the untapped talent of foster children, she said.
“So we want to embrace the talent in our communities,” Munro continued.
With CASA, volunteers monitor the cases and lives of foster children, spend time with them and make recommendations about their future to the court.
Volunteer Ginger Bishop of Portales said lawyers, social workers and parents come and go during the at least 18 months children are in foster care. Their CASA, however, doesn’t.
“We don’t change,” she said. “Once we’re assigned to the child, we see them out of the system.”
Bishop most enjoys the opportunity to play with the child she helps.
CASA volunteer Tensey Williams of Clovis became involved about four years ago.
“I just love kids, and I enjoy being around them, and if I know I can make a difference in their lives, I’ll do it,” she said.
When she’s working on a case, she spends about four hours a week helping the child.
Williams said the hardest part for her is getting emotionally involved, and she had to learn not to break down in front of the children.
Williams said she’s nervous speaking in front of groups, but in court, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.
New volunteers would need to attend 30 hours of evening training and two hours of court observation in June. Then, they would be able to pick a case and begin advocating for the child.
“The more, the merrier, because what that means is every kid has a voice in court,” Munro said.