Foster care death spurs need for volunteers


by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 10:12 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 5 at 9:35 AM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- She was a child trusted into the care of a family who was supposed to protect her; instead Rockdale police say 2-year-old Alexandria Hill was fatally abused.

“As a parent, you want to hug your children. As a CASA volunteer, you want to stand on a mountaintop somewhere and scream 'we need more volunteers!'" said attorney and volunteer Art Villarreal.

CASA stands for “court appointed special advocates.”

Villarreal says his job is to be an extra pair of eyes and ears in the foster care system.

“There are so many people involved in the process that have multiple cases, but the CASA volunteer has one child."

He's worked with several abused children in his eight years of volunteering and, in the process, has stopped potential abuse.

“They had a weird vibe to them, something that wasn't quite right, and ultimately family protective services took them out of that foster home," he said.

But Alex Hill didn't have that extra pair of eyes watching over her.

Williamson County CASA board member Angie Harris tells KVUE they have grown tremendously since they opened five years ago but they still don’t have enough volunteers or funding to keep up with the all the child abuse cases.

“There are currently 380 children from Williamson County that are in foster care with no CASA,” he said.

What they need are more people willing to spend a few hours, once a month, checking on children.

“They become aware that the volunteer is not getting paid anything to be there. They're there as a volunteer, and they're there because they care,” said Angie.

Villarreal says in Hill’s case, “I would hope that had there been a CASA volunteer, they would have noticed some of the red flags."

Currently, there are 504 children in the foster care system in Williamson County alone, and less than a third of those children are served by CASA.

If you would like to learn more about CASA and how you can volunteer, please click here.

CASA relies heavily on donations. If you would like to donate, please click here.