Texas CASA Introduces Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) During Child Abuse Prevention Month

Groundbreaking initiative focuses on building networks
of support for children in state care

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) today announced its
involvement in developing and launching a progressive new initiative,
Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE). The goal of CFE is to create
better outcomes for children in the Texas child protection system by
identifying, locating and engaging family members and other committed
adults so they may be involved in the child’s care and permanency
planning. The announcement comes as Texas CASA observes National Child
Abuse Prevention Month in April, a time when communities are encouraged
to share child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and
activities.

“A CASA volunteer provides crucial support while a child is in care, but
Texas CASA is taking steps to provide lifelong, sustainable and natural
connections for children even after their CASA involvement ends,” said
Candice Dosman, Texas CASA Collaborative Family Engagement Manager.
“Collaborative Family Engagement teams use tools and techniques focused
on connection, engagement and an understanding of trauma with the hope
of achieving permanency earlier, bolstering child well-being, and
reducing the number of children and youth growing up in the foster care
system.”

CFE is based on the fact that foster children generally have many blood
relatives and other adult connections who can be identified and involved
in their cases from the beginning, with the goal of decreasing the time
children spend in the system and creating a network of support. Studies
show that one of the strongest indicators for child well-being is the
number of committed adults in a child’s life. For children in foster
care, having even one positive adult support person is a deterrent
against future drug use, involvement in the criminal justice system and
homelessness.

The CFE model creates teams of Child Protective Services (CPS)
employees, CASA volunteers and other stakeholders who utilize new
technology to research and find family members and other adults in the
child’s life. Once these adults are located, they can become involved in
the child’s plan to find a safe, permanent home.

“The collaboration between Texas CASA and CPS, along with the
connections engaged through CFE, increases the likelihood that foster
children will find and sustain meaningful relationships with their
family members and loved ones,” said Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO. “I
anticipate this will start a fundamental shift in the way we approach
children and youth in the child protection system.”

The CFE model is being piloted in two CPS regions with three local CASA
programs in Texas: Corpus Christi, Fort Bend County and Montgomery
County. Plans are already in place to expand the initiative in 2017
based on the success of the current pilots in their first three months
of implementation.

“It has been wonderful to be a part of the collaboration between CASA
and CPS, working together to identify and reach out to the family
members in these cases—achieving access to many vital connections
children otherwise may not have known about,” said a CASA staffer and
adoptive parent. “After 30 years as an educator and more than eight
years in advocacy work with CASA, I cannot point to anything that has
had as much impact on me as the potential and hope we are providing to
children and youth through the CFE model.”

Along with tools to increase engagement and creative information
gathering, CFE also utilizes various technologies, including GenoPro, a
proprietary genealogy software, Seneca Search Services and Find Families
in Mexico to search multiple databases and provide customized search
reports. This multi-faceted approach provides the most comprehensive
information available to connect children and youth with their support
networks.

“CFE is a great model that enables CASA volunteers to better serve
children in care, but it is just one example of how CASA volunteers are
providing better outcomes for Texas children and families affected by
child abuse,” added Spriggs. “Local CASA programs across the state are
always in need of more volunteers to be voices for Texas’ most
vulnerable children.”

How to Help

To learn how you can help children in your community, find your local
CASA program at BecomeACASA.org.
Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and willing to commit to at
least one year of advocacy.

For more information on the CFE initiative, visit TexasCASA.org/Collaborative-Family-Engagement.

About Texas CASA

Austin-based Texas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is the
statewide organization of 72 local CASA programs that recruit and train
volunteers to advocate for children in the child protection system. Last
year, 8,476 well-trained volunteers served 25,947 children in 207 of the
254 Texas counties. Texas CASA supports the local CASA programs by
advocating for effective public policy for children in the child
protection system and by providing funding, training and technical
assistance to program staff, board and volunteers.

CASA volunteers are everyday members of the community doing
extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for abused and neglected
children in their communities. They are screened and trained, then
appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child or
sibling group in the foster care system. Often the CASA volunteer is the
one constant person in a child’s life while he or she goes through the
overburdened system. CASA volunteers work to move the children through
foster care and into safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.

Contacts

GDC Marketing & Ideation
Emily Price, 210-538-2835
Senior
PR Account Executive
225-933-5992 cell
eprice@gdc-co.com
or
Texas
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)

Debbie Berins,
512-610-6121
Senior Marketing & Communications Specialist
281-777-7996
cell
dberins@texascasa.org